Thursday, April 14, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
Signs Logo
Printer Friendly Version
Fixed link to latest Page

P I C T U R E   O F   T H E   D A Y

Titanic Stock Certificate
14 April 1912

Where are your savings heading? (If you have any...)

DeLay Urges GOP to Blame Dems Over Ethics
AP Special Correspondent
Wednesday April 13, 2005 4:16 AM

WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism. [...]

DeLay's case is at the heart of a broader controversy in the House, where Democrats accuse Republicans of unilaterally changing ethics committee rules to prevent any further investigation of DeLay. Republicans have denied the allegation.

The panel arranged a meeting for Wednesday, and Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, the senior Democrat, said he would renew a push for a bipartisan rewrite of the rules that Republicans put into effect in January on a party-line vote. Officials in both parties said they knew of no compromise discussions.

One senior Republican spoke sympathetically of DeLay after the closed-door meeting.

"I hope he survives, and I hope he will stay in there and do his job,'' said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

"The power of prayer is the only thing that will sustain you'' in the circumstance DeLay is in, Lott added, and he spoke disparagingly of any Republicans who fail to stand by the Texan. [...]

DeLay has consistently denied any violation of either law or House rules.

His private remarks to Senate Republicans were in keeping with the response frequently offered on his behalf by House Republicans: Blame the Democrats and occasionally the news media for the scrutiny he faces. House Republicans intend to follow the script later in the week, hoping to showcase passage of bankruptcy legislation and estate tax repeal as a counterpoint to Democratic charges that they are merely power-hungry. [...]

Comment: It seems at least some Republicans took to heart DeLay's recommendation to blame everything on the Democrats...

Click here to comment on this article

Tom DeLay Flap Produces Hyperbole
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
April 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans are using the ethics turmoil surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to wage a rhetorical duel accusing each other of skirting tough debates on Social Security, gas prices and judges.

Hyperbole, no stranger on Capitol Hill, is a key weapon in a fight tightly coordinated by party leaders.

Republicans lunged first on Wednesday, accusing Democrats of exploiting questions about who paid for two of DeLay's trips abroad.

"Tom DeLay did nothing wrong," Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., told reporters after the weekly GOP caucus meeting. "There's no evidence of any breaking of the House rules. What this is, is a political smear campaign made by an organization, a political party that is devoid of ideas."

Democrats parried by describing DeLay as the face of a Republican majority controlled by radical, right-wing extremists, unfairly wielding power by changing House ethics rules and threatening to abolish Senate filibusters - a hallowed tradition that allows senators to stall legislation with unlimited talk.

"Republicans are engaging in abuse of power and the American people are paying the price," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Added Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., "The Republicans in the House of Representatives are running the most closed and bitterly partisan House in the history of our country." [...]

On Wednesday, DeLay apologized for "inartful" phrasing when he said on the day Schiavo died that the judges involved would have to answer for their decisions against her parents, who wanted to reconnect her feeding tube. But he gave no ground on the ethics debate.

Comment: Another AP article elaborates:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay apologized Wednesday for using overheated rhetoric on the day Terri Schiavo died, but refused to say whether he supports impeachment of the judges who ruled in her case.

DeLay backtracked as White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush considers the Texas Republican, who is battling ethics allegations, a friend, but suggested that the majority leader is more of a business associate than a social pal. [...]

"I believe in an independent judiciary. I repeat, of course I believe in an independent judiciary," DeLay said.

At the same time, he added, the Constitution gives Congress power to oversee the courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said.

Asked whether he favors impeachment for any of the judges in the Schiavo case, he did not answer directly.

Instead, he referred reporters to an earlier request he made to the House Judiciary Committee to look into "judicial activism" and Schiavo's case in particular. [...]

After shocking everyone by cutting short his vacation to rush back and give the judiciary the opportunity to save Schiavo, Bush is now slowly backing away from DeLay. The president also remarked that he supports an independent judiciary.

He told reporters that he was eager to appear before the leaders of the House ethics committee to respond to the conduct allegations.

But in an interview with The Washington Times, published Thursday, DeLay charged that Democrats had shut down the panel to prevent him from clearing his name. [...]

DeLay charged that Democrats actually want the work of the committee thwarted so that they can protect one of their own members, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, who is under scrutiny in connection with the illegal leak of a tape recording of a Republican congressman's cellphone conversation.

The Republican-controlled House this year changed the rules for ethics probes, contending that greater fairness was needed toward members under investigation. Democrats are trying to overturn those changes, arguing they were designed to block any new investigations of DeLay by requiring at least one Republican vote to proceed. That fight has effectively paralyzed the committee. [...]

Amid all the outrage, memories appear short. For example, when polls showed a majority of people disapproving of Congress's March 20 vote allowing federal judges to intervene in Schiavo's case, Democrats started throwing the word Schiavo into their list of grievances.

Yet no Senate Democrats filed an objection to the bill, nor did they show up for the final vote. In the House, 102 Democrats, including Pelosi, didn't show up for the vote there in the early morning hours of March 21.

On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee professes wonder at Democratic leader Harry Reid's threat to bring the Senate to a halt if the GOP abolishes the filibusters Democrats have used to block President Bush's judicial nominees.

The threat to shut down operations "baffles me," Frist said. It shouldn't. Frist was a member of the newly minted GOP majority that shut down the government in the 1990s during a budget standoff with President Clinton.

The near-term stakes include DeLay's future in Congress and whether a bitter standoff over judicial nominations might preclude action on tax cuts, Social Security changes and other Bush priorities. [...]

Comment: Just imagine what would happen if the US economy crashed while Congress was busy bickering instead of taking action on Bush's "brilliant" economic measures...

In any case, Bush and his handlers are certainly not happy that Congress has opposed the president's judicial nominees. After the Schiavo affair, Tom DeLay came out swinging, calling for the impeachment of some judges. Instead of support, Bush responded to DeLay with a statement that he favors an independent judiciary, and that DeLay is not a close personal friend. Obviously, Bush does not support an independent judiciary; he supports a judiciary staffed by people he appoints to carry out the master plan of his handlers - and that means there's no room for "liberals".

Also, keep in mind that the Patriot Act is up for renewal soon...

Click here to comment on this article

'Trust me' just doesn't fly
Wed Apr 13, 9:48 AM ET

When Congress rushed to give unprecedented new powers to law enforcement in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, debate was limited and the vote was overwhelming: 357-66 in the House and 98-1 in the Senate. As portions of the "USA Patriot Act" law come up for renewal, that's unlikely to happen again, fortunately.

After three years of Justice Department stonewalling about use of the law and numerous reports of abuses, an unusual coalition is forming to demand changes in its most troublesome sections.

Conservative Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union don't work together often. But they're just a few of the strange political bedfellows calling for a rollback in provisions that threaten civil liberties and privacy rights.

That span of opposition should be a signal to those who've been trying for more than two years to ram through legislation making the law permanent. But many of them still murmur about only "technical changes" while demanding additional investigative tools that raise further questions.

The conspiracy indictment disclosed Tuesday of three men already awaiting trial in England is a reminder that terrorism is a real threat, and most of the law is non-controversial.

Comment: The devil is in the details. The entire law is completely controversial if the real terrorists aren't fanatical Arabs, but rather elements of the US government - including many in the Bush administration - in cooperation with Israeli Zionists.

Portions of it removed barriers to the exchange of information among law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies. But other sections are far less benign:

• The law allows secret searches of any home or business by federal agents, with no deadline to notify the owners or occupants that a search has taken place. This has been used against innocent citizens.

• It authorizes collection of personal information from libraries, businesses and medical providers even if there is no evidence of any connection with terrorism. And those ordered to supply the information are barred from letting anyone know that Big Brother is engaging in such activities.

• The law defines domestic terrorism so broadly it could be applied to completely unrelated acts, even peaceful protests.

The Justice Department's response is essentially, "Trust me." Appearing before Congress last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that the administration has been careful with the law and has made limited use of the most controversial provisions. He said the authority to investigate libraries hasn't been used - but he wants to keep it.

Comment: "No, really! We've been really careful and quite reserved in exercising our new draconian powers. We promise we won't abuse our power. Besides, when have we ever lied to you before??"

The record shows government can't be trusted to protect privacy rights, and the law has been abused.

After months of denials that turned out to be false, the Justice Department reversed itself and acknowledged April 5 that it had secretly searched the home of an Oregon lawyer who was wrongly accused of being a perpetrator of last year's train bombings in Madrid. He was never told of the search.

A Muslim student in Idaho was prosecuted because he posted Internet links to objectionable materials, even though identical links were available on the Web sites of a major news outlet and the government's own expert witness in the case.

And while the granting of unprecedented law-enforcement powers was justified as essential to the special needs of the war on terrorism, the act's provisions have been used in criminal investigations as mundane as a Las Vegas bribery probe.

The need to renew portions of the Patriot Act due to expire at the end of the year gives Congress the opportunity to take a careful look at the entire law - and this time show as much respect for the rights of ordinary citizens as for the demands of law enforcement.

Comment: At the moment, Congress seems far too preoccupied with other matters to look carefully at any law...

Click here to comment on this article

Man's Claims May Be a Look at Dark Side of War on Terror
By Jeffrey Fleishman
Republished from LA Times
Wed, 13 Apr 2005 17:54:01

ULM, Germany - When he returned to this city five months later, his friends didn't believe the odyssey he recounted. Masri said he was kidnapped in Macedonia, beaten by masked men, blindfolded, injected with drugs and flown to Afghanistan, where he was imprisoned and interrogated by U.S. intelligence agents. He said he was finally dumped in the mountains of Albania.

"One person told me not to tell this story because it's so unreal, no one would listen," said Masri, a German citizen who was born in Lebanon.

A Munich prosecutor has launched an investigation and is intent on questioning U.S. officials about the unemployed car salesman's claim that he was wrongly targeted as an Islamic militant. Masri's story, if true, would offer a rare firsthand look at one man's disappearance into a hidden dimension of the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. authorities have used overseas detention centers and jails to hold or interrogate suspected terrorists, such as at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Many of the estimated 9,000 prisoners in U.S. military custody were captured in Iraq, but others, like Masri, were allegedly picked up in another country and delivered to U.S. authorities in Afghanistan or elsewhere for months of confinement.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on Masri's case, but White House, Justice Department and CIA officials have long argued that U.S. laws authorize such covert operations. They say U.S. officials have been given assurances in every case that no one is tortured.

"This is not a rogue agency on these issues," said a former senior CIA official who is familiar with the practice. "All these programs have been done under strict supervision, and have saved lives."

The German government is investigating Masri's allegations.

"I have no indication that Masri is not telling the truth," Munich prosecutor Martin Hofmann said in a recent interview. Hair analysis - which can identify malnourishment and whether someone spent time in a certain part of the world - suggests that Masri was maltreated and could have been in Afghanistan in early 2004, said his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic.

"I cannot bring kidnapping charges against a country," Hofmann said. "Decisions now have to be made by higher German authorities. Bearing in mind the politically explosive nature of this case, I still believe it can be handled swiftly."

Masri's allegations come at a sensitive time for Washington and Berlin. President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met last month to help mend ties in the wake of Germany's opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. German officials are troubled by the possible kidnapping of one of their citizens but do not want to jeopardize cooperation with Washington in the war on terrorism. There also is the question of what role, if any, German intelligence played in Masri's disappearance.

Masri, a stout man with combed-back black hair, may have run into trouble because of his name and place of worship.

His mosque, the Multicultural House in Ulm, has been under surveillance by German authorities as a haven for radical mullahs and extremists. Some of its worshipers enlisted with militants in Chechnya, the breakaway Russian republic. Suspected Al Qaeda member Reda Seyam, who was arrested after the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, and later released, had spent time in the Ulm mosque and once borrowed a car belonging to Masri's wife.

In a twist that raises the possibility of mistaken identity, U.S. intelligence services have listed a Khaled el-Masri as a suspected terrorist operative with ties to Osama bin Laden. That Masri, still believed to be at large, allegedly persuaded several of the Sept. 11 hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, to train in Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

These factors may have converged as Masri sat on a bus that New Year's Eve.

Masri, a father of four, said he was having family problems and decided to escape his small apartment for a short holiday in Macedonia. This account raises doubts among some German officials, but Masri is adamant that he needed time away from his wife.

The tenor of the trip changed about 3 p.m. when his passport was confiscated after the bus crossed the Serbian border into Macedonia. Three hours later, Masri said, he was waiting for his documents to be returned when "two guys in plainclothes and carrying pistols arrived and asked me if I had connections to Islamic organizations. I told them no. They questioned me until 10 p.m. and then they put me in a car."

Masri said he was taken to a hotel in the capital, Skopje, and was guarded by Macedonian teams of three men working in shifts. He said he demanded to see an official from the German Embassy but no one came. He tried to flee, he said, but was threatened with guns.

On the seventh day of his confinement, he said, a man photographed him and took his fingerprints. Another man Masri described as the "big boss" offered him a deal.

"The big boss said too many days had passed," he said. "He told me if I admitted to belonging to Al Qaeda, they'd deport me to Germany. I refused. They kept asking so many questions about my life. How often did I pray? Did I drink alcohol? Did I belong to the Muslim Brotherhood? Did I know extremists? They asked all their questions in English, and I only know a little English. They didn't allow me to call my wife."

Masri said he told his interrogators that he attended the Ulm mosque for prayers but had no connections to extremists. He said he was then accused of having a fake passport and of being an Egyptian who had spent time in Afghanistan. He was denied legal representation, he said, and began a hunger strike on his 13th day in the hotel.

Ten days later, on Jan. 23, a man with a video camera told Masri to stand against a wall and ordered him to say that he was in good physical condition and was being taken to the airport to fly to Germany, Masri said. He was then blindfolded and put in a car.

"We drove for a while and I could hear airplanes. I was led into a room. The door closed behind me and I was beaten from all sides for about one minute. They bent my arms to my back and cut off my clothes. I heard the click, click of a camera. For a moment, they took off the blindfold. I saw seven to eight men all dressed in black and wearing masks. I tried to keep on my underpants but they ripped them off. They put me in diapers and a dark blue sweatsuit with the legs and sleeves cut out."

He said he was led to a plane with his hands tied behind his back and shackles on his feet. "They put earplugs in my ears and a sack over my head. They put me on the floor and injected me with something. I went black. At some point, I smelled the kind of alcohol they have in a hospital. I received another injection."

Aviation documents viewed by the Los Angeles Times show that a jet registered to a U.S. company landed at the Skopje airport at 8:51 p.m., Jan. 23, 2004. The plane's tail number was N313P and was registered to Premier Executive Transport Services Inc., a Massachusetts firm with reported connections to the CIA. No phone numbers are listed for the company or its directors.

The jet left Skopje more than three hours later, and its destination - first disclosed by the German television program "Frontal 21" - was Kabul, the Afghan capital, with a stopover in Baghdad.

When he was taken off the plane, Masri said, he was put into the trunk of a car and driven about 10 minutes. "I awoke in a small, dirty cell," he said. "It was like a basement room with a tiny window. There was Arabic and Farsi writing on the wall from other prisoners. It was then I knew I was in Afghanistan."

His cell was in a block with about five other cells, he said, adding that his fellow inmates included three Saudis, two Tanzanians, a Pakistani who had been living in the U.S. and a Yemeni.

Masri said he was not tortured while in Afghanistan but was photographed naked. A doctor who spoke English and wore jeans and a checkered shirt, and who was identified through an interpreter as an American, once drew blood from him, he said, adding, "I complained to the doctor about the dirty drinking water in my cell and he said, 'That's not our problem, that's the Afghans' problem.' "

Masri said one interrogator, a man with a Lebanese accent, told him: "You are in a country where there are no laws and nobody knows where you are. Do you know what this means?"

Over the next several months, Masri said, the cycle was the same. He was let out of his cell a few minutes a day. Some nights, he said, men wearing masks took him into a room where he was questioned for 30 minutes to two hours. Two of his interrogators, he said, identified themselves as Americans. He said the Americans questioned him about 10 times. He also was interrogated a few times by a German-speaking man who identified himself as Sam.

"The questions were all the same," Masri said. "They really wanted to know about the mosque and the Islamic information center in Ulm. They asked me if I knew Mohamed Atta. But the questions were never about specific acts…. I kept asking to see German authorities. I went on a hunger strike for 37 days.

"I passed out on the 35th day. The American doctor came on the 37th day with the American head of the prison. They told me to stop the hunger strike. I was fastened to a chair and my head was pulled back and a tube was pushed into my nose and I was fed a liquid that tasted like chocolate."

A little later, on May 28, 2004, Masri said, he was taken from his cell and blindfolded. He said he was put on a plane and flew to Tirana, the Albanian capital. Masri said that when the plane landed he was given his passport, put in a van and driven three hours through the mountains. He was dropped off and the van disappeared. "I walked 500 meters. I had long hair and a beard. I came to a checkpoint and asked where I was," Masri said. "A guard told me I was at the Albanian-Macedonian border. Then he said I was in the country illegally because I didn't have an entry stamp in my passport. He said, 'You look like a terrorist.' I told him my story. He laughed."

The guards loaded him into a van and drove him through the mountains to the Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana. He said he was put on a plane that landed in Frankfurt, Germany. Hours later he arrived in Ulm. His apartment was empty except for unpaid bills. His wife and four children were gone; they had moved to Lebanon when he failed to return months earlier.

"No one said, 'Sorry, we made a mistake,' " Masri said. "I just want to find out what happened and why it happened. I want those responsible to be punished."

He was never charged with a crime.

Click here to comment on this article

Underlings Paint Poor Picture of Bolton
By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press Writer
Wed Apr 13,10:12 PM ET

WASHINGTON - This city has its share of demanding, furniture-chewing, volatile bosses - and then there's U.N. ambassador-nominee John R. Bolton, according to underlings at the State Department.

"It's an 800-pound gorilla devouring a banana," Carl Ford Jr., a former chief at the department's bureau of intelligence and research, told Congress this week in recounting Bolton's treatment of an analyst further down the food chain.

Current and past government employees drew a truly unflattering portrait of Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control who has been tapped by President Bush to be the U.S. diplomat at the United Nations, the world's peacekeeping organization.

"Tirades," "finger-shaking" and "red in the face" were among the words and descriptions in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and written transcripts of interviews released by the panel.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to the nominee's defense on Wednesday. "That is certainly not the John Bolton I know," said Rice, who moved to the State Department from the White House in January.

At the Senate hearing, officials recalled Bolton's anger after an intelligence analyst, Christian P. Westermann, tried to change the language in Bolton's speech about whether Cuba was developing chemical and biological weapons.

"Midlevel ... munchkin analyst" was how Bolton described Westermann, a retired Navy lieutenant commander with 23 years of experience in the service and a handful of years on intelligence research at the State Department.

Westermann described for committee staff his encounter with Bolton.

"And he got red in the face and shaking his finger at me and explained to me that I was acting way beyond my position, and for someone who worked for him. I told him I didn't work for him," Westermann said. "Basically threw me out of his office."

In testimony Monday, Bolton said he lost trust in Westermann and thought he should work on other assignments. He dismissed the brouhaha, saying, "There is nothing there, there, and I would put it all out on the public record - all of it."

According to the transcripts, Bolton told Thomas Fingar, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Intelligence Research, about his encounter with Westermann, and indicated he was stunned at the analyst's attitude.

Bolton said that he himself "was the president's appointee, that he had every right to say what he believed, that he wasn't going to be told what he could say by a midlevel INR (Intelligence Research) munchkin analyst," Fingar said.

Ford, who has worked for Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told the senators that Bolton was the "quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy. There are a lot of them around. I'm sure you've met them."

"But the fact is that he stands out, that he's got a bigger kick and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy he's kicking."

The Republican-controlled committee is expected to approve Bolton's nomination and send it to the full Senate. Democrats did succeed on Wednesday in forcing a delay in the committee vote until next week so State Department officials can be questioned in writing.

Comment: Well, he certainly sounds like a charming man to us. Who better to represent the US at the United Nations than an apparently eogmaniacal, arrogant, and quick-tempered man like Bolton?

Click here to comment on this article

September 11, 2001 Revisited

Dave McGowan
Senoir Analyst, Center for an Informed America
April 12, 2005

[Editor's Note: A popular hobby of late among some 9-11 researchers seems to involve disparaging the efforts of, and questioning the motives of, those researchers who refuse to ignore the fact that the available evidence is entirely inconsistent with the crash of a jetliner at the Pentagon. These individuals generally refer to certain other Pentagon investigators as "no-plane" theorists. For the purposes of this article, I have adopted a name for them as well: Tattoo theorists. This appellation is, of course, an homage to the "Fantasy Island" character best known for the tag line, "Ze plane! Ze plane!"

Two of the most aggressive of the Tattoo theorists, by the way, are Jim Hoffman and Brian Salter, both of whom were on the other side of the fence, so to speak, until fairly recently. If you have ever known someone who quit smoking and thereafter embarked on a mission to browbeat and berate every other smoker on the planet, then you have a pretty good idea of how the Tattoo theorists operate.]

On February 24, Brian Salter ( posted a histrionic denunciation of Pentagon "no-plane" theorists that included the bizarre claim that any efforts to "keep the unnecessary no-plane speculation alive just helps to smear 9-11 Truth activists as hateful maniacs. Maybe that's the idea."

Well, I guess the jig is up. Mr. Salter, it seems, has figured out our diabolical plot. All along, the real goal has been to cast 9-11 researchers as - dare I say it? - hateful maniacs. In fact, the 'talking points' that I receive from my secret CIA backers routinely contain such notations as: "Operation Hateful Maniacs is, as you know, proceeding on schedule; prepare to shift into the next phase of the program, Operation Deranged Psychopaths."

Of course, it could also be that those of us who continue to focus on the glaring inconsistencies in the official story of what happened at the Pentagon are actually pursuing the truth, which is what a "Truth activist" is supposed to do, rather than peddling entirely speculative drivel about a mythical 'plane bomb,' which is what the Tattoo theorists choose to do.

The primary strong-arm tactic of the Tattoo theorists is to cast "no-plane" theorists as part of a Cointelpro-type operation aimed at undermining the 9-11 skeptics' case. The "no-plane" theories, it is claimed, are "straw man" arguments, propped up specifically so that they can be easily brushed aside by "debunkers," thus discrediting the 9-11 movement in its entirety by attacking at points of greatest vulnerability.

In his blog, Salter claims "media debunkers have shown maximum enthusiasm for portraying [Pentagon no-plane theories] as the heart and soul of 9/11 skepticism and making it the centerpiece of practically every hit piece." ( Hoffman has written that "the prominence of the no-757-crash theory will damage the cause, particularly as it reaches a wider audience less inclined to research the issue ... The mainstream press is casting the no-757-crash theory as a loony construct of conspiracy theorists, and representative of all 9/11 skepticism." ( Mark Robinowitz has joined the chorus by claiming "'No Planes' has been the most effective means to discredit issues of complicity inside the Beltway." (

Obviously then, everyone is in agreement (as if they were all reading the same 'talking points') that we must immediately drop all support for the "no-plane" theories, because if we don't, we will continue to furnish the enemy with useful ammunition with which to attack and discredit us. Sounds like a good plan -- except for the fact that it is based on a false premise.

The reality is that there have been almost no mainstream media 'debunkings' of the 9-11 skeptics' case, and there is a very good reason for that: the cumulative case that has been painstakingly compiled is (despite the spirited efforts of people like the Tattoo theorists) a formidable one that major media outlets, along with most so-called 'alternative' media outlets, have wisely chosen not to confront.

By far the most ambitious, high-profile media 'debunking' of the claims made by 9-11 skeptics has been the hit piece that graced the cover of the March 2005 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine ( Since it is known that this article was co-written by Benjamin Chertoff, reportedly a cousin of our very own Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, then it is probably safe to assume that a primary objective was to knock down all the 'straw men' arguments that had been carefully planted and nurtured by government operatives. That is, after all, how this game is played, as the Tattoo theorists readily acknowledge.

We should, therefore, expect to find that the Popular Mechanics article focuses considerable attention on the Pentagon "no-plane" theories, and on the Pentagon attack in general. But what we find instead is quite the opposite; instead of emphasizing questions about the Pentagon, the issue is downplayed and given very little attention -- which isn't really surprising given that the attack on the Pentagon has always been, from day one, relegated to the status of a relatively insignificant footnote.

The PM article presents what it says are the top sixteen claims made by 9-11 skeptics, coupled with what are supposed to be 'debunkings' of each of those claims. The claims are grouped into four categories, which are presented in the following order: "The Planes" (the ones that hit the towers); "The World Trade Center" (the collapse of the towers); "The Pentagon"; and "Flight 93." Five of the sixteen claims examined concern the collapse of the WTC towers, four concern Flights 11 and 175, four concern Flight 93, and just three concern the Pentagon attack. In terms of word count, the article runs (minus the introduction) about 5,200 words, and it breaks down roughly as follows: collapse of towers - 2,050 words; WTC planes - 1250 words; Flight 93 - 1150 words; and the Pentagon - a paltry 750 words.

So if we are to use the focus of mainstream media attacks to gauge the points of greatest vulnerability in the 9-11 skeptics' case, then, in terms of both word count and number of claims examined, the collapse of the Twin Towers would be, by far, the weakest leak in the chain (which is kind of ironic, when you think about it, considering that most, if not all of the Tattoo theorists actively promote the theory that the towers were brought down with explosives). As for Pentagon "no-plane" theories, they are, according to the given criteria, the point of least vulnerability.

If we use the criteria of prominence of placement on the list, then the point of greatest vulnerability would be theories concerning the planes that hit the towers. Indeed, the very first claim that is examined concerns the notorious "pod plane" theories, and the third delves into the equally inane issue of 'windowless jets.' These are, of course, some of the real areas of vulnerability in the 9-11 skeptics' case. And though they are frequently linked to Pentagon theories, they are entirely separate issues.

Claims concerning the Pentagon attack don't make an appearance on the Popular Mechanics list until well into the second half of the article. And once they do appear, they are given very little print space. The three claims 'debunked' in the PM piece barely scratch the surface of the cumulative case that has been built to challenge the official version of the Pentagon attack. And the 'debunking' of even these cherry-picked 'claims' is pathetically inept. The undeniable lack of aircraft debris from the alleged crash, for example, is brushed aside with nothing more than this ludicrous emotional appeal from an alleged blast expert and witness to the aftermath of the attack: "I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box ... I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?"

You would think that if the Pentagon attack theories were the 'straw men' that the Tattoo theorists claim, then the 'debunkers' would be better prepared to knock those straw men down, and they would devote more print space to doing so. Instead, we find the Pentagon attack being downplayed in a major media attack on the 9-11 skeptics movement -- at the very same time, curiously enough, that a number of 9-11 skeptics have begun aggressively demanding that all "unnecessary speculation" about the Pentagon attack be dropped, and at the very same time that a new purported Pentagon skeptics' site suddenly appeared, professionally designed and complete with new interviews and photos (from insider sources), numerous omissions, copious amounts of spin and disinformation, a new DVD for sale, and, of course, enthusiastic backing from the Tattoo theorists and other 9-11 skeptics.

I have to say, quite frankly, that all of this just seems too well choreographed for my tastes. And, I have to also say that the Tattoo theorists' recent efforts to bury the Pentagon "no-plane speculation" seem rather desperate and overreaching. Consider, for example, the opening lines of the Salter post that I referenced at the beginning of this rant:

The latest escapade in the frantic effort to "keep the faith" amongst the Pentagon no-plane cult is the announcement of a great new "smoking gun". It turns out that a key figure in the Gannon scandal, president Bobby Eberle, who was a key White House go-between, testified that he witnessed the Pentagon strike on 9/11. Well, there's only one logical conclusion that anyone could draw from this -- that all of the witness testimony supporting the crash of a 757 airliner into the Pentagon is all part of a vast fraudulent conspiracy masterminded by Bobby Eberle! As the Xymphora blog tells it, with breathless drama:

"Forget about Gannon. The only reason he has been interesting is the prurient part of his story. I'm reading more and more about how everyone in the White House, up to and including Rove and Bush, is as gay as Paul Lynde, which just reflects the deep homophobia in the coverage of Gannongate. The gay aspect is a red herring. The deep politics aspect of the story is the connection between the White House, conservative e-mail harvester and fundraiser Bruce W. Eberle, and GOPUSA President Bobby Eberle. Bobby Eberle's eyewitness testimony of Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon is the big break we've been waiting for, the first tiny window into the American conspiracy behind 9-11."
While I certainly do not agree with everything that Xymphora has written here concerning the Gannon scandal, it is immediately apparent that Salter is grossly misrepresenting the situation. Specifically, no one that I know of, and certainly no one cited by Salter, has claimed that Bobby Eberle "masterminded" a vast conspiracy. Indeed, Xymphora's actual position is clearly stated in another excerpt that Salter has thoughtfully posted:

"I have speculated that at least some of the witnesses to the crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon were ringers planted by the conspirators. What are the chances that Eberle, whose name has come up prominently in Gannongate, was an eyewitness to the crash? Those who are so certain that the testimony of eyewitnesses means that Flight 77 must have crashed into the Pentagon, despite the enormous amount of physical evidence to the contrary, just might want to give their heads a shake and rethink things. If the evidence of the crash of Flight 77 is so goddamn clear, why did the operators in the Republican Party feel the need to gild the lily?"

That is, I must say, a perfectly legitimate question -- although Salter dismisses it by proclaiming that "there is no basis to claim that Eberle's testimony represented an effort to 'gild the lily.'" Salter's position might be a valid one if - and this is a very big "if" - Eberle was the only political operative that stepped out of the shadows with an unlikely account of the attack on the Pentagon. But he wasn't the only one. Not by a long shot.

Of course, that fact might not be immediately apparent to anyone relying upon the witness list assembled by French researcher Eric Bart, which is the witness list that virtually all of the Tattoo theorists routinely cite as the 'most complete' list (Salter calls it "the most extensive available," Robinowitz touts it as "perhaps the best list of eyewitness accounts," describes it as a "comprehensive witness list," and Hoffman has paid tribute by re-posting the list). In truth, however, Bart's list is not by any means a complete list, though it is certainly the most imposingly long list. Most of that length, however, is due to extensive padding. As it turns out, a substantial portion of the entries on the list are not witness accounts at all; instead, they fall into one of the following categories:
  • News reports that retell the official story without citing any specific witnesses.
  • Statements by official government spokesmen who were not themselves witnesses to the attack.
  • Hearsay accounts.
  • Reports that have nothing to do with what did or did not hit the Pentagon (such as an air traffic control report, two seismic reports, a Navy report on treating blast injuries, a Federation of American Scientists report on blast effects, an engineer's report on the reinforcement work done on the Pentagon, and, most bizarrely, a Washington Post report on the creation of the Information Awareness Office).
  • Accounts of rescue workers who tended to the wounded.
As for the potential witnesses that are included on the Bart list, roughly half of them offer no information that is useful for determining what really happened at the Pentagon. About three dozen of the cited witnesses were inside the building complex at the time of the attack; their accounts describe only the explosion and/or the smoke and fire, offering no clue as to what caused that explosion and fire (although there are numerous reports of multiple explosions, and a few reports of the smell of cordite, none of which lend much weight to the official legend). Similarly, many of the outside witnesses could be described as 'earwitnesses'; these individuals heard something fly by, and/or they heard (or felt) an explosion at the Pentagon, but they did not actually see anything. Other witnesses saw the fireball or smoke cloud, but not what caused it.

After editing the Bart list to eliminate all the non-witnesses and all the irrelevant witnesses, what is left is, at most, 70 witnesses who claim to have seen something flying in the vicinity of, approaching, or actually crashing into, the Pentagon. So much for the endlessly cited "hundreds of witnesses" that the Tattoo theorists can't seem to stop talking about (even the brazen liars at Popular Mechanics, by the way, acknowledge that there were "dozens of witnesses," not hundreds) ...

Something else, by the way, that the Tattoo theorists love to talk about is how the dastardly "no-planers" like to pluck portions of witness statements out of context, particularly in the case of oft-cited USA Today reporter/witness Mike Walter. Given the manner in which Mr. Bart presents the testimony of 'witnesses' like Scott Cook, I'm sure that those in the opposing camp will understand why I say: "pot, meet kettle." According to Bart (and, by extension, all the Tattoo theorists who have endorsed and/or re-posted his list), this is Cook's account of the Pentagon attack:

It was a 757 out of Dulles, which had come up the river in back of our building, turned sharply over the Capitol, ran past the White House and the Washington Monument, up the river to Rosslyn, then dropped to treetop level and ran down Washington Boulevard to the Pentagon (...) As we watched the black plume gather strength, less than a minute after the explosion ...

As presented, Cook's recollection appears to be a very specific account of the approach and crash of a 757 aircraft into the Pentagon. In fact, it appears to be an impossibly specific account, since no witness at the scene could have know, at the time of the alleged crash, that the plane had flown out of Dulles. But Mr. Cook never actually made such a claim. For the record, here is how Scott Cook's 'witness' account read before it was deceptively (and apparently quite deliberately) edited by Eric Bart:

We didn't know what kind of plane had hit the Pentagon, or where it had hit. Later, we were told that it was a 757 out of Dulles, which had come up the river in back of our building, turned sharply over the Capitol, ran past the White House and the Washington Monument, up the river to Rosslyn, then dropped to treetop level and ran down Washington Boulevard to the Pentagon. I cannot fathom why neither myself nor Ray, a former Air Force officer, missed a big 757, going 400 miles an hour, as it crossed in front of our window in its last 10 seconds of flight. (The more I’ve thought about it since, the odder the choice of the Pentagon as a target appeared. The Pentagon is a huge pile of concrete, the walls over a foot thick, and no plane is big enough to do more than superficial damage to it. Had the hijackers chosen to dive into the Capitol or the White House, much smaller sandstone buildings with little internal framework, the damage and the death toll would have been infinitely higher. Both houses of Congress were in session, and in addition Laura Bush was in the building, preparing to testify to some committee about school reading programs. I guess the symbolism of the Pentagon was more important to the terrorists, who blamed the US military for everything, much like Chomskyites blame everything on the CIA. As horrible as it sounds, the hit on the Pentagon may have been a blessing.) As we watched the black plume gather strength, less than a minute after the explosion ...

It is quite obvious that what Cook actually said was that even though both he and his partner were positioned to witness the alleged plane and the alleged crash, and therefore should have witnessed the alleged plane and the alleged crash, neither one of them actually saw anything of the sort. Far from confirming the official account of the alleged crash, Mr. Cook appears to have been somewhat bewildered by it. Of course, you would never know that from reading through Eric Bart's 'witness' list -- which raises the question of why, if the 'witness' evidence is so compelling, Eric Bart felt the need to gild the lily.

Scott Cook, by the way, wasn't the only one who missed seeing the plane that day. One of the non-witnesses on Bart's list, Tom Hovis, had these thoughts to share: "Strangely, no one at the Reagan Tower noticed the aircraft. Andrews AFB radar should have also picked up the aircraft I would think." Well ... yeah ... I would tend to think so as well -- but I guess those terr'ists were just real sneaky or something, stealthily flying that large aircraft into Washington without it registering either visually or on radar.

But then again, maybe not, since I see that, according to the very same Tom Hovis, "The plane had been seen making a lazy pattern in the no-fly zone over the White House and US Cap." According to witness Clyde Vaughn, "There wasn't anything in the air, except for one airplane, and it looked like it was loitering over Georgetown …" And journalist Bob Hunt claimed that he "talked to a number of average people in route who said they saw the plane hovering over the Washington Mall Area ..."

I have to confess my ignorance here, since, to be perfectly honest, I didn't even know that it was possible for a passenger plane to hover. Despite the fact that I have the good fortune of living under the approach path of the local airport, and have therefore seen more than my share of airplanes, I have personally never seen one hover, even briefly. But since this information is not only included on Pentagon witness lists, but is attributed to average people, then I know it must be true (just as it must be true that the plane actually dive-bombed into the Pentagon, as at least five witnesses saw it do, and it must simultaneously be true that the plane actually hit or scraped the ground before impacting the building, as at least five other witnesses have claimed, and it must also be true that there was a second plane, since at least nine witnesses saw it).

So, this is apparently the situation that existed at around 9:30 AM the morning of September 11, 2001: both World Trade Center towers had been attacked and hundreds of people were already dead or dying; not just the nation, but the entire world was watching and knew that America was being attacked by hijacked aircraft, some of which were reportedly still in the air and still very much a threat; the nation's defenses were, presumably, on the highest state of alert; and, in the midst of it all, a hijacked aircraft was - as would be expected, I suppose - leisurely cruising through the most secure airspace in the known world, over the most sensitive political and military installations in the country, with nary a military jet in sight.

Now, some may find this pre-suicide sightseeing by the terr'ists to be somewhat odd, but my guess is that they were probably stalling to allow time for all the news crews to get set up so that they could capture all the nonexistent photographs and video footage that we are still waiting to see. Either that, or those ballsy terr'ists were actually taunting the U.S. military, daring the fighter jets to come out and play, knowing full well that a squadron of F-16s are no match for an unarmed 757. But here I digress ...

In the interest of compiling a more complete (and accurate) list of witnesses than that presented by Bart, I went searching elsewhere and found that there are actually many more purported witnesses of the Pentagon attack. Some of the names that Bart has conveniently chosen to leave off are painfully obvious lily-gilders. Others have told stories that are, I have to say, laughably absurd. Consider, for example, the tale told by purported witness Dennis Smith, who was supposedly "smoking a cigarette in the center courtyard [of the Pentagon] when he heard the roar of engines and looked up in time to see the tail of a plane seconds before it exploded into the building."

Now, I obviously can't say for sure what was in that 'cigarette' that Dennis was smoking, but according to my trusty high school geometry book, it would have been very difficult for him to peer over a structure 77 feet high and 200 feet wide and see something that was, according to legend, some 50 feet off the ground -- unless, of course, Mr. Smith happens to be about 100 feet tall, or to have x-ray vision. I'm going to go on record here as saying that neither seems very likely.

In any event, the point here is that Eric Bart has prepared a very selective presentation of the available Pentagon witness testimony. Some of the testimony that Bart has opted to omit from his list can be found here, and yet more can be found here.

Although these two lists mercifully omit many of the non-witness accounts that Bart has used to pad his list, and include many purported accounts that Bart has left off, both of the additional lists are plagued by problems of their own. Probably the biggest problem is that a good number of entries are credited to what amount to anonymous sources (people identified by only first name, or by initials, or by pseudonym). Some listings are, incredibly enough, unverified pseudonymous postings to internet discussion groups that appeared months, and even years, after the fact. I would hope that we can all agree here that anonymous, belated boasts of having witnessed one of the most significant events in modern American history do not exactly qualify as actual witness accounts.

By combining the three lists, minus all the filler, I came up with a list of roughly 110 named individuals who have claimed, at one time or another, to have witnessed something flying near, headed towards, and/or crashing into the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001. However, nearly three dozen of these individuals held off telling their tales until long after the official version of events had thoroughly penetrated the American psyche, leaving roughly 75 people who claimed, in the hours and days immediately following the attack, that they had witnessed the event. With this more complete witness list in hand, it is time to return to the original question being examined here (as posed by Xymphora): "If the evidence of the crash of Flight 77 is so goddamn clear, why did the operators in the Republican Party feel the need to gild the lily?"

As it turns out, it was actually more of a 'bipartisan' affair, with operatives of both alleged political persuasions joining the lily-gilding party. Consider the following list of self-described witnesses: Gary Bauer, Paul Begala, Bobby Eberle, Mike Gerson, Alfred Regnery, and Greta Van Susteren. Many of them need no introduction, but let's run through the list anyway:
  • Gary Bauer: Talking head and former Republican presidential candidate who has been linked to the notorious Project for a New American Century.
  • Paul Begala: Democratic Party operative and nominally liberal punching bag on CNN's "Crossfire."
  • Bobby Eberle: President and CEO of GOPUSA, a portal of right-wing propaganda.
  • Mike Gerson: Director of George W. Bush's speech writing staff.
  • Alfred Regnery: President of Regnery Publishing, another portal of right-wing propaganda -- one that has seen fit to bestow upon the world the literary stylings of Ann Coulter, the Swift Boat Veterans, and numerous other accomplished liars.
  • Greta Van Susteren: Nominally liberal legal analyst for Fox News.
I don't know if the Tattoo theorists are aware of this, but all of the people on that list share at least one thing in common: they are all professional liars. It is their job, individually and collectively, to lie to the American people. On a daily basis. They are, by any objective appraisal, propagandists for the state. So if all of them are selling the same story, in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary, it is probably best to assume that they might not be telling the truth.

Let's take a look now at some of the other people that are hawking the same story: Dennis Clem, Penny Elgas, Albert Hemphill, Lincoln Leibner, Stephen McGraw, Mitch Mitchell, Patty Murray, Rick Renzi, James Robbins, Meseidy Rodriguez, Darb Ryan, Elizabeth Smiley, and Clyde Vaughn. And who are they? Allow me to handle the introductions:
  • Dennis Clem is a Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
  • Penny Elgas sits on the FDIC Advisory Committee on Banking Policy, alongside of Jean Baker, who just happens to be the Chief of Staff at the Office of President George H.W. Bush.
  • Albert Hemphill is a Lt. General with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.
  • Captain (now Major) Lincoln Leibner is a communications officer for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
  • Stephen McGraw is a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney reborn as an Opus Dei priest.
  • Colonel Mitch Mitchell serves as a CBS News war spinner military consultant.
  • Patty Murray is a United States Senator (D-Washington).
  • Rick Renzi is a United States Congressman (R-Arizona).
  • James Robbins is a contributor to National Review, a national security analyst, and a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council (I, by the way, have decided that I should refer to myself as a Senior Fellow at the Center for an Informed America).
  • I'm not sure exactly who Meseidy Rodriguez is, but his name appears in legal filings concerning Dick Cheney's top-secret energy policy meetings, which probably isn't a good sign.
  • Vice Admiral Darb Ryan is the Chief of U.S. Naval Personnel.
  • Elizabeth Smiley is an intelligence operations specialist with Civil Aviation Security at FAA headquarters -- which means that she is one of the people who inexplicably failed to perform their jobs on September 11, 2001, possibly because she was busy watching phantom jetliners crashing into the Pentagon.
  • Brig. General Clyde A. Vaughn is the deputy director of military support to civil authorities -- which means that he is another one of the people who inexplicably failed to perform their jobs on September 11, 2001, possibly because he was also busy watching phantom jetliners crashing into the Pentagon.
Anybody see anyone on that list that they would want to buy a used car from? No? How about Colonel Bruce Elliot or Major Joseph Candelario? Or Lt. Cols. Stuart Artman or Frank "Had I not hit the deck, the plane would have taken off my head" Probst? Still no? Then how about Elaine McCusker, a Co-Chairman of the Coalition for National Security Research? Or retired Naval Commanders Donald Bouchoux or Lesley Kelly? How about Shari Taylor, a finance manager at the Defense Intelligence Agency, or Philip Sheuerman, the Associate General Counsel for the U.S. Air Force?

How about any of the names on this list: Bob Dubill, Mary Ann Owens, Richard Benedetto, Christopher Munsey, Vin Narayanan, Joel Sucherman, Mike Walter, Steve Anderson, Fred Gaskins and Mark Faram? Aside from claiming to have witnessed the attack on the Pentagon, what do these ten people have in common? We'll get to that in just a moment, but first let's hear from Mr. Faram, who is, it will be recalled, the gentleman who captured the two famous shots of the alleged aircraft debris that many investigators have inexplicably spent countless hours trying to match up with images of various American Airlines aircraft fuselages:

I hate to disappoint anyone, but here is the story behind the photograph. At the time, I was a senior writer with Navy Times newspaper. It is an independent weekly that is owned by the Gannett Corporation (same owners as USA Today). I was at the Navy Annex, up the hill from the Pentagon when I heard the explosion. I always keep a digital camera in my backpack briefcase just as a matter of habit. When the explosion happened I ran down the hill to the site and arrived there approximately 10 minutes after the explosion. I saw the piece, that was near the heliport pad and had to work around to get a shot of it with the building in the background. Because the situation was still fluid, I was able to get in close and make that image within fifteen minutes of the explosion because security had yet to shut off the area. I photographed it twice, with the newly arrived fire trucks pouring water into the building in the background ... Right after photographing that piece of wreckage, I also photographed a triage area where medical personnel were tending to a seriously burned man. A priest knelt in the middle of the area and started to pray. I took that image and left immediately ... I was out of the immediate area photographing other things within 20 minutes of the crash.

To say that Mr. Faram's account of his actions that morning strains credibility would be a gross understatement. Imagine this scenario: you are a reporter for a major news service, and you happen to find yourself, purely by chance, among the first on the scene of the most significant news story in decades -- one that would occupy all of the media's time for weeks to come. Would you be at all surprised to find a triage area already set up and staffed by medical personnel and a priest? And, more importantly, would you just take a quick look around, snap off a few quick photos, and then hurriedly leave the scene, because there was apparently something else to photograph on the other side of town -- like maybe a really important dog show?

Despite the dubious nature of Mr. Faram's account, he did at least provide us with some useful important information -- specifically, that USA Today and Navy Times are both part of the Gannett family of news outlets. Actually, if Faram weren't so modest, he would have noted that Gannett also publishes Air Force Times, Army Times, Marine Corp Times, Armed Forces Journal, Military Market, Military City, and Defense News. In other words, it's just your typical independent, civilian media organization.

Having established that, let's now take a look at who our group of mystery witnesses are (or who they were at the time of the Pentagon attack):
  • Bob Dubill was the executive editor for USA Today.
  • Mary Ann Owens was a journalist for Gannett.
  • Richard Benedetto was a reporter for USA Today.
  • Christopher Munsey was a reporter for Navy Times.
  • Vin Narayanan was a reporter for USA Today.
  • Joel Sucherman was a multimedia editor for USA Today.
  • Mike Walter was a reporter for USA Today.
  • Steve Anderson was the director of communications for USA Today.
  • Fred Gaskins was the national editor for USA Today.
  • Mark Faram was a reporter for Navy Times.
Is it just me, or does anyone else detect a pattern here?

Now, it is my understanding that the Tattoo theorists claim, for the most part, not to be 'coincidence theorists.' So, I guess that the question that I have is this: exactly how many Gannett reporters and editors does it take to make a conspiracy? I could accept that maybe two or three of them might have been, purely by chance, in position to witness the attack on the Pentagon. Hell, being an open-minded kind of guy, I might even be willing to go as high as four or five. But ten?! Ten?! What are the odds that ten of the alleged Pentagon witnesses would be from the same news organization?

Perhaps some readers are thinking that maybe there is a simple explanation for this statistical aberration -- like maybe the Gannett building is ideally located to provide a view of the attack, or maybe everyone was riding together on a Gannett ride-sharing bus. But neither of those appear to be the case, since only one of the ten Gannett journalists claims to have witnessed the attack from his office, while all the rest maintain that they just happened to be positioned in various strategic locations near the Pentagon. So unless USA Today staff was holding its annual company picnic on the Pentagon lawn that morning, it seems to me that there is something seriously wrong with this story.

Amazingly enough, no fewer than five of those ten Gannett reporters and editors (Benedetto, Munsey, Narayanan, Sucherman and Walter) were able to specifically identify the plane that they saw as an American Airlines jet, and a sixth (Faram) managed to capture the only known photographic images of something vaguely resembling a twisted piece of wreckage from an American Airlines jet! I have to note here that it's a damn good thing that we had proactive and incredibly observant reporters like the USA Today staff swarming all over the scene of a pending national tragedy. I guess that when you're a seasoned professional, you just have a sixth sense about where to be and when to be there. That's probably why Eugenio Hernandez and Dave Winslow, two Associated Press reporters, were also on the scene to witness the attack. Hernandez, by the way, is a video journalist -- but not the kind of video journalist who shot any actual video footage.

According to Dave Winslow, an AP radio reporter, his being on the scene to witness the attack and then quickly call in a report ensured that "AP members were first to know." I guess he didn't notice that nearly the entire staff of USA Today was loitering around the scene and calling in reports as well.

According to the 'witness' compilations, it wasn't just major media outlets that knew immediately what had happened at the Pentagon. Witness Mark Bright, a Defense Protective Service officer who was manning a guard booth, claims that, "As soon as it struck the building, I just called in an attack, because I knew it couldn't be accidental." If true, then I guess his call must have come in right after that of fellow witness and Defense Protective Service officer William Lagasse, who said on ABC's "Nightline" program: "It was close enough that I could see the windows and the blinds had been pulled down. I read American Airlines on it … I got on the radio and broadcast. I said a plane is, is heading toward the Heliport side of the building."

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Fred Hey, a congressional staff attorney and yet another purported witness, had the following reaction to the attack: "'I can't believe it! This plane is going down into the Pentagon!' he shouted into his cell phone. On the other end of the line was his boss, Rep. Bob Ney (R) of Ohio. Representative Ney immediately phoned the news to House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood, who ordered an immediate evacuation of the Capitol itself." And according to the Seattle Times, Senator Patty Murray was meeting with other Senate Leaders when, "From a window in the meeting room, she saw a plane hit the Pentagon."

The Birmington Post Herald held that Pentagon firefighter/witness Alan Wallace "switched on the truck's radio. 'Foam 61 to Fort Myer,' he said. 'We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus." According to another report, local Engine Company 101 also witnessed the attack and immediately radioed in this report: "Engine 101--emergency traffic, a plane has gone down into the Pentagon."

According to yet another report, "Barry Frost and Officer Richard Cox, on patrol in south Arlington County, saw a large American Airlines aircraft in steep descent on a collision course with the Pentagon. They immediately radioed the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center. ACPD Headquarters issued a simultaneous page to all members of the ACFD with instructions to report for duty." In addition, a purported transcription of an Arlington County Police Department log tape reads as follows: "Motor 14, it was an American Airlines plane. Uh. Headed eastbound over the Pike (Columbia Pike highway), possibly toward the Pentagon."

So what we can safely conclude, after reviewing these various accounts, is that - within mere moments of the attack/explosion - all of the following entities knew exactly what had happened at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11: the Pentagon's own police force; the Pentagon's own fire department; the Arlington County Police Department; the Arlington County Fire Department; the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center; the leadership of the United States House of Representatives; the leadership of the United States Senate; the country's national newspaper; and the nation's largest newswire service. In addition, there were, according to the Tattoo theorists, literally hundreds of witnesses on the scene who knew exactly what had happened. And according to John Judge (perhaps the least credible of the Tattoo theorists, with the possible exception of Jean-Pierre Desmoulins), "local news immediately interviewed and broadcast eyewitness accounts of the plane going in."

In other words, there was never any doubt about what hit the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001. From the very moment of impact, it was perfectly clear to everyone exactly what had happened. We know this because the accounts contained on the 'witness' lists of various Tattoo theorists tell us that it is so. And we should, I suppose, believe these accounts even though the objective reality is that - despite the alleged presence of hundreds of eyewitnesses, including numerous local and national media figures, prominent politicians, police and fire personnel, and military and intelligence personnel, and despite the fact that it was widely known that hijacked commercial aircraft were being used as weapons that day, and that a hijacked plane had allegedly been heading toward Washington - no one initially seemed to know what had happened at the Pentagon.

According to Assistant Secretary of Defense Torie Clarke, it was none other then Donald Rumsfeld who first determined that the Pentagon had been struck by an airplane -- half an hour after the attack had occurred: "[Rumsfeld] was in his office, really not that far away from the side of the building that got hit by the plane. He and another person immediately ran down the hallway and went outside and helped some of the people, some of the casualties getting off the stretchers, etc. When he came back in the building about half an hour later, he was the first one that told us he was quite sure it was a plane. Based on the wreckage and based on the thousands and thousands of pieces of metal. He was the one that told us, the staff that was in the room. So he was really the first one who told us that it was most likely a plane."

It wasn't until later that it was declared that the alleged aircraft was an American Airlines passenger plane. As David Ray Griffin recounted in The New Pearl Harbor, "At 10:32, ABC News reported that Flight 77 had been hijacked, but there was no suggestion that it had returned to Washington and hit the Pentagon. Indeed, Fox TV shortly thereafter said that the Pentagon had been hit by a US Air Force flight."
(You can read the relevant chapter from Griffin's book here, along with some amusing criticism from Jean-Pierre Desmoulins:

So it appears that, nearly a full hour after the attack had occurred, no one had yet begun to flesh out the official story of what happened at the Pentagon. "Only sometime in the afternoon did it become generally accepted that the aircraft that hit the Pentagon was Flight 77," writes Griffin. "The first move toward the identification was made by a statement on the website of the Pentagon announcing that it had been hit by a 'commercial airliner, possibly hijacked.'"

That statement, we can safely assume, was likely based on the assessment of Donald Rumsfeld. Griffin continues: "Then that afternoon the story that this airliner was Flight 77 spread quickly through the media. The source of this story, the Los Angeles Times reported, was some military officials speaking on condition of anonymity. The media also started reporting that Flight 77, just before it disappeared from view, had made a U-turn and headed back toward Washington. But, argues Meyssan, since the civilian air controllers were, according to the official account, no longer receiving information from either radar or the transponder, this 'information must also have come from military sources.'"

There was, of course, one other person who played a key role in fleshing out the official story: Theodore Olson, U.S. Solicitor General and right-wing conspirator extraordinaire. It was Olson, it will be recalled, who single-handedly verified the 'hijacked by Arabs and flown back to Washington' story through his inconsistent accounts of unverified cellphone calls that he supposedly received from his wife, yet another right-wing propagandist and talking-head.

The truth of the matter is that the "American Airlines 757 Crashes Into The Pentagon!" story did not spontaneously arise from the eyewitness accounts of rank-and-file citizens. To the contrary, it was a product of the work of Donald Rumsfeld, Ted Olson and unnamed Pentagon officials, and it was reinforced by the media largely through the words of the political operatives and media whores we have already gotten acquainted with -- and people like reputed Navy pilot Tim Timmerman, who spoke on the air with CNN correspondent Bob Franken on the afternoon of September 11 (some four-and-a-half hours after the incident at the Pentagon). Timmerman was seemingly on a mission to unequivocally establish what it was that had allegedly struck the Pentagon:

Bob Franken: What can you tell us about the plane itself?
Tim Timmerman: It was a Boeing 757, American Airlines, no question.
Franken: You say it was a Boeing, and you say it was a 757 or 767?
Timmerman: 7-5-7.
Franken: 757, which, of course …
Timmerman: American Airlines.
Franken: American Airlines ...

And who exactly was this witness who was so cocksure of his identification of the plane? No one seems to know. One researcher (Jerry Russell) failed in his efforts to verify that he is an actual person. Maybe he is the Tim Timmerman mentioned in this story out of Michigan ( and, which seems to carry the distinct stench of black operations. Or maybe he doesn't even exist at all.

In any event, the American Airlines 757 story was further embellished through the notorious photographs of Mark Faram of the infamous Gannett Ten, and through the fragment of indeterminate metal lovingly and patriotically preserved and donated to the National Museum of American History by a woman who just happens - coincidentally, of course - to sit on a board with George Bush, Sr.'s Chief of Staff, and through various other images of supposed aircraft debris, virtually all of which are credited to "anonymous" or "unknown" photographers. (

* * * * * * * * * *

In the beginning, nobody talked much about the Pentagon attack. Most of the internet chatter was about advance warnings and put options. A few brave souls questioned the collapse of the Twin Towers, the appearance of an air defense stand-down, and the fate of Flight 93, but no one really talked about what happened at the Pentagon.

We never saw any footage that verified the official story, nor did we initially see or hear anything that contradicted that story. And so it was until Thierry Meyssan, working from thousands of miles away, alerted the world to the fact that the official story of what happened at the Pentagon was at serious odds with the available photographic evidence.

In retrospect, it seems odd that we had to look to France for answers to what happened in this nation's capitol. After all, don't we have any real investigative journalists of our own? Don't we have our own 'conspiracy researchers'? And aren't many of them based right there in Washington, DC? Weren't some of them in an ideal position to blow the whistle on the various Pentagon anomalies?

John Judge is one name that immediately comes to mind here. Judge is, as most readers are probably aware, a veteran researcher who is revered in many 'conspiracy' circles. He is not only a current resident of the nation's capitol, but a native son as well. In fact, he literally grew up in the Pentagon, as he is fond of telling people. If any alternative journalist knows his way around the Pentagon, it is John Judge.

Perhaps more so than anyone else, John Judge was in a position to serve as a whistleblower. But John Judge was also ideally positioned to fill another role: upholder of the official story within the so-called 'truth movement,' and denouncer of anyone who dared to question the veracity of that official story. Ever since questions first began to arise about what really happened at the Pentagon, John Judge has filled the latter role.

Judge is smart enough to realize that he can't possibly come out on the winning end of any arguments over the merits of the available evidence, so he has, for some three years now, studiously avoided debating the actual evidence. Instead, he quickly created an apparently fictional entity, in the form of an unidentified, but supposedly dear friend of his who just happens to be a flight attendant for American Airlines, and just happens to regularly fly the route flown by Flight 77 that fateful day, but just happened to have taken that particular day off so that she survived and now has insider information, unavailable to anyone else, that Flight 77 really did crash into the Pentagon that day.

This mythical person has served Judge well for the past three years, enabling him to sidestep any and all substantive questions concerning the evidence anomalies with a pat answer that goes something like this: "Well, you know, there were hundreds of witnesses, and my friend says that it really did happen the way the government says, so it must be true."

Judge's phantom friend, it should be noted, is not your average flight attendant. In a post dated February 21, 2004, Judge told the latest fanciful, and unintentionally hilarious, version of his friend's story, which has grown more and more elaborate, and more and more ridiculous, over the past three years:

A dear friend and fellow researcher had been working as a flight attendant for American for many years, and that was her regular route, several times a week ... As it turned out, my friend had not been on Flight 77, having taken the day off work to care for her sick father ... When questions arose about Flight 77, I contacted her to raise the issues that concerned me and the speculation of others who denied the plane hit the Pentagon. She was adamant in saying it had, and told me she had been to the crash site and had seen parts of the plane. I asked her about the speculation that the plane would have made a larger hole due to the wingspan. She informed me that the fuel was stored in the wings and that they would have exploded and broken off, as the fuselage slammed through the building walls.

Already we see that not only is this person a flight attendant, but also a fellow researcher and, apparently, an expert on airplane crashes. As we return to the story, Judge's mystery friend has been "approached by another flight attendant to assist in support work for the rescue crews at the site." Let's see what happens next:

The Pentagon was seeking people with security clearances that they could trust to be near the site and all the airline attendants qualified for that level of clearance ... [My friend] and her mother signed up for an overnight shift on Friday, September 21st. She and her mother spent the entire night continuously providing drinks to rescuers ... At the end of her shift on Saturday morning, September 22nd, she was approached along with other attendants to visit the crash site. One declined, but she and two others took a van driven by the Salvation Army to the area.

I have to interrupt here briefly to ask a couple of silly questions that come to mind. First, how is it that someone who is supposedly a conspiracy researcher, and a dear friend of a very well known conspiracy researcher, obtains a security clearance that allows them to roam about the Pentagon? And second, if the mystery friend had just spent the entire night tending to the rescue teams working at the Pentagon crash site, why did she then have to be driven to the crash site? Where did that Salvation Army van take her -- across the Pentagon lawn?

Memo to John Judge: lying isn't as easy as it may appear to be. If you're going to completely fabricate a story, you have to be careful that that story is consistent. And with that out of the way, let's get back to the story, which is about to veer off into bizarro world:
The area was covered with rescue equipment, fire trucks, small carts, and ambulances. They were still hoping to find survivors. Small jeeps with wagons attached were being used to transport workers and others at the site. One flight attendant was driving one of these around the site. Once inside the fence, she was unable to clearly discern where the original wall had been. There was just a gaping hole. She got off the van and walked inside the crash site. The other attendants broke down crying once they were inside. But my friend went in further than the others and kept her emotions in check as she has been trained to do and usually does in emergency situations.

How do I even begin to dissect out all the absurdities present in this one brief passage? I suppose I could begin by pointing out that the mystery friend couldn't possibly have seen a "gaping hole" since any entry hole was buried in rubble shortly after the alleged crash, when the Pentagon was afflicted with that curious September 11 malady known as Collapsing Building Syndrome. I also have to point out how extremely unlikely it is that a group of flight attendants would be invited to freely tour a site that was: (1) one of the world's most secure military installations; (2) ground zero of an investigation into what was supposedly the deadliest act of 'terrorism' ever on American soil; and (3) a badly damaged, unsafe, partially-collapsed structure that obviously would have been off-limits to anyone who didn't need to be in there.

I was also going to comment on the scenario of the unnamed flight attendant cruising around the site in a jeep-and-wagon set-up, but, to be perfectly honest, every time the visual flashes through my mind I find myself too convulsed with laughter to think of anything to say.

At this point, you are probably wondering what the phantom stewardess/researcher/crash expert/rescue worker saw when she entered the building. Quite a bit, as it turns out. Certainly far more evidence of a plane crash than anyone else has ever claimed to have seen. And much of what she saw, believe it or not, was wreckage that could be positively identified as wreckage of an American Airlines Boeing 757, which she was, of course, an expert at identifying

She saw parts of the fuselage of an American Airlines plane, a Boeing 757 plane. She identified the charred wreckage in several ways. She recognized the polished aluminum outer shell ... and the red and blue trim that is used to decorate the fuselage. She saw parts of the inside of the plane ... The soft carpeting and padding of the inner walls had a cloud design and color she recognized ... The blue coloring of the drapes and carpet were also specific to the 757 or 767 larger planes ... Seating upholstery also matched the AA 757 planes ... She saw other parts of the plane and engine parts at a distance but they were familiar to her ... One area of fuselage had remaining window sections and the shape of the windows ... was also distinct to the 757's she had flown. She also saw parts with the A/A logo, including parts of the tail of the plane. Smaller A/A logos and "American" logos are also on the planes and she saw parts of those.

Who knew there was so much identifiable aircraft wreckage? Wreckage that was apparently never photographed and never shown to anyone other than John Judge's friend? Am I the only one here who is wondering whether Mr. Judge has maybe been watching too many reruns of old Saturday Night Live skits featuring Jon Lovitz. "Yeah, John, that's it ... that's the ticket."

The anonymous friend "also saw," we are to believe, "charred human bones but not any flesh or full body parts." So the bodies were apparently reduced to charred bones, but the upholstery, carpet and drapes were, of course, still looking factory fresh.

In an earlier version of the flight attendant story, posted on October 30, 2002, Judge claimed that his friend was also "shown autopsy photos of her fellow crew members, including the severed arm of her best friend at work, which she recognized from the bracelet she wore." I have to confess here that I never realized how much access flight attendants have. I now find myself wondering what kind of access commercial pilots must have. I'm guessing they could probably sit in on the President's morning briefings if they really wanted to.

Anyhow, getting back to the story, we aren't quite through yet being subjected to outlandish claims. The next one goes something like this:

The crew of Flight 77 who died in the crash included her personal friend Renee May. She had spoken to Renee's mother after the crash, and Renee had used a cell phone to call her mother during the hijacking.

It sounds like the phantom stewardess has this case all wrapped up. She has, single-handedly, gathered more evidence that AA Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon than the entire federal government and all of its media mouthpieces combined. I, for one, am impressed. She has seen and positively identified wreckage of Flight 77. She has seen and positively identified the remains of actual humans who were supposed to be on the flight. She has seen the gaping entry wound. She has spoken to someone who can personally vouch for the hijacking story.

And that's not all! Judge has other phantom witnesses as well, and they can verify other portions of the official fairy tale:

Other American ground crew workers saw some of the suspects board American Airlines Flight 77 and recognized them from published photos ... My attendant friend knows and has put me in touch with other American Airlines employees and pilots who were at the site and took photographs. We are busy locating these, as well as another attendant who was at the site with her that day.

Well, you keep working on that, John. Let us know just as soon as you can produce a single one of these alleged witnesses, or any of their alleged photographs. But, really, there's no rush. We understand that these things take time, and you've only had three-and-a-half years to locate these witnesses that you claim to have already been in touch with.

By the way, what were they all doing stomping around the Pentagon crash site? Was it open to all American Airlines employees? How about United Airlines employees? Were Boeing employees allowed to tour the site as well? How about employees of Dulles International Airport? How about employees of the company that catered the meals for Flight 77? Did the baggage handlers get to take a peek? I don't mean to sound snide here; I'm really just trying to determine what the criteria were for deciding who was allowed to tour this very sensitive site, because, truth be told, I would have liked to take a look for myself, but my invite must have gotten lost in the mail or something.

Moving on, it's time for Mr. Judge to abruptly segue into the conclusion of his formidable case:

My friend is therefore a credible and very knowledgeable eyewitness to the fact that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. She has been vilified by those who refuse to believe the obvious ... My friend is herself a researcher for many years into government misdeeds and cover-ups. If she did not see the parts, she would say so. She has no reason to lie about it. Nor is she confused about what she saw. She is a professional and is used to looking at evidence.

Let it never be said that I participated in the vilification of a nonexistent person. That just wouldn't be right. For the record, the argument here is not that Judge's friend is a liar. No, the argument here is that John Judge is a liar. And not a particularly good one -- but certainly a very ambitious one. Lest there be any lingering doubt about that, Judge saves his best for last. In the final paragraph of his missive, he actually makes the following claim:

One employee saw the nose of the plane crash through her office wall.

No shit? I hope she didn't receive any serious injuries.

In that same paragraph, Judge claims that Flight 77 "flew dangerously close to the ground, skidding into the ground floor of the Pentagon." In yet another Pentagon rant, this one from October 23, 2002, Judge made a similar claim: "the plane bottomed out just short of contact with the building and bounced into it." That scenario, of course, was long ago discredited, owing to the fact that it is quite apparent that there was no damage to the Pentagon lawn consistent with an airplane crash. And yet, more than three years after the events of September 11, Judge is still hawking the same story.

The bottom line here is that Judge has quite obviously fabricated an elaborate tale - allegedly, but not actually, based on the testimony of unnamed witnesses - and he has used that story to shield himself from having to deal with the very real evidence anomalies uncovered by legitimate researchers. For three years, he has asked that we take him at his word, because he is, after all, the great John Judge. And that, my friends, is what legend building is all about.

After reviewing Judge's various Pentagon rants, I have a few final questions for the Tattoo theorists: why did the 'powers that be' feel the need to call on the services of an established 'conspiracy theorist' to further gild this lily? Why is John Judge so obviously lying? Or, if he is isn't lying, then why do all you Tattoo theorists shy away from referencing his 'work'? After all, he has obviously presented more evidence in support of your Tattoo theories than anyone else. Isn't the fact that you choose to ignore his contributions a tacit admission that you know full well that he is lying his ass off?

So, again I must ask: if the evidence of the crash of Flight 77 is so persuasive, then why is John Judge gilding the lily?

Comment: Whatever happened at the Pentagon is very clearly the weak link in the official story. Think back to the day of the attacks and those following. Remember how the events at the Pentagon were pushed into the background as news coverage focused on the events at the WTC? Our attention was being directed away from the Pentagon. Could this be because the story didn't hold up?

1. There are guns at the Pentagon that are programmed to shoot down anything approaching the building that didn't have the appropriate identification signal. Are we to believe that the "terrorists" had cracked the code? Has the mainstream media ever investigated this curious lapse in security?

2. Although the first tower of the WTC had been hit at about 8:45, there were no jets in the skies protecting Washington.

3. The first reports from the Pentagon described a bomb from a truck.

4. The crash scene resembles no commercial crash site.

5. Many of the eyewitnesses who have later come forwarded to defend the official story give reports that are completely at odds with the documentary evidence, such as descriptions of the tail of the plane sticking out from the building after the crash. The first pictures, taken within ten minutes of the crash, show this was not the case. See our article on eyewitness reports.

Click here to comment on this article

Posted by James Wolcott

I'm fascinated with the stock market, not just as a money-making (or money-losing) proposition, but as a laboratory for sentiment and a theater of folly. One of the things I've learned about the market is to heed one's elders. They know best. When every hotshot was predicting a Nasdaq to infinity and beyond in the late nineties, it was the wise owls--Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters, Warren Buffett, Sir John Templeton, Seth Glickenhaus--who warned of stocks burning up on reentry into the earth's atmosphere. They were discounted at the time as stodgy, outmoded, stuck in the transistor age as information technology made traditional metrics and industries obsolete--Buffett in particular was chided for not holding tech stocks--and the business magazines splashed one young startup stud or portfolio manager after another on the cover along with articles that cried RETIRE RICH! and FIRE YOUR BOSS!

Then, in March 2000, Nasdaq crested above five thousand and snowballed downhill, currently resting at 3000 points--3000 points!--below its all-time high. I have friends, we all do, who got caught up in the euphoria and had retirement money and college-fund money in zoom-zoom Janus funds or others heavy in semis and dotcoms and lost anywhere from 50 to 70% of their holdings and still haven't recovered.

The market isn't dizzily high now, you're not hearing the same hyperbole, but the elders are again full of qualms and forebodings. A year ago in an interview, Sir John Templeton said he had never seen so few investment opportunities in all his 91 years. Buffett has also said he's sitting on a mountain of cash because there's so little worth buying. Today, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, a man of true stature (literally as well), wrote in the Washington Post today, "[U]nder the placid surface, there are disturbing trends: huge imbalances, disequilibria, risks -- call them what you will. Altogether the circumstances seem to me as dangerous and intractable as any I can remember, and I can remember quite a lot. What really concerns me is that there seems to be so little willingness or capacity to do much about it."

Also looking under the placid surface is the excellent young coolheaded portfolio manager, John Hussman, who does a weekly commentary on his site and has been marking the underlying deterioration of the stock market, which turned ominous last week.

"Apart from the broad deteriorations that have already occurred, the last straw for market action was that a number of key concerns for the market – interest rates, oil prices, the U.S. dollar – all improved, but broad market action failed to respond. Financials, bank stocks, corporate bonds and other interest-sensitives failed to improve in response to the rally in Treasuries, transportation stocks fell apart despite the pullback in oil prices, neither market breadth, leadership or other internals have exhibited strength, and so on.

"Moreover, at this point, interest rates, oil and the dollar have all corrected their prior, extreme moves, which exhausts the benefits that their recovery from oversold (overbought) conditions were expected to provide. Given that these measures have been among the most important concerns for investors in recent months, the failure of stocks to respond to their improvement implies that there is more negative information than meets the eye. A clearer, but slightly improper way of saying this is 'if stocks can't rally on lower rates, lower oil and a stronger dollar, what happens if they deteriorate again?'"

Yet as Richard Russell noted today in his daily commentary (subcription only) at Dow Theory Letters, the volatility index is still recording investor complacency.

There's a pattern here. As with Peak Oil, global warming, the real estate bubble, and the various US deficits, there's a general awareness of Trouble Coming and yet no sense of urgency or battle plan. It isn't that the media, the political class, and the media are paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by alternative solutions, it's as if everyone is assuming that we can sleepwalk through the next crisis and muddle through as we always have with only minor hiccups, if any, in our lifestyles. As Stephen Roach and others have warned, the American consumer is now so indebted and lacking in savings that there's little cushion for the next reversal of fortune. Almost any soft landing could turn hard.

As James Kunstler, author of the forthcoming The Long Emergency, wrote today on his Clusterfuck Nation chronicle:

"I notice lately that there are two kinds of hubris operating among the 'forward-thinking' classes in America (which is to say, those who are thinking at all). One I call techno-hubris. It represents the idea that there are really no limits to our powers of innovation and it is obviously the product of our experience in the past century, especially of our victory in World War Two and of the 1969 moon landing. The other kind is organizational hubris, the certainty that we can organize our way around the oil bottleneck, global warming, and population overshoot. What both modes of thinking have in common is that neither recognizes the probability that we are moving into a period of discontinuity, turbulence and hardship. Both modes of thinking assume that we can negotiate a smooth transition from where we are now to a new-and-improved human condition.
     "There is a remarkable consistency in the delusional thinking at every level of American life these days. When Americans think about the future at all, they seem to think it will be pretty much the way we live now. The buyers of 4000 square foot McHouses think that they will be able to continue heating them with cheap natural gas, not to mention commuting seventy miles a day. The stadium builders assume that major league sports will continue just as it is today, with chartered jet planes conveying zillionaire athletes incessently back and forth across the continent. The highway engineers and the municipal planners are focused like lasers on providing more roads and more parking spaces for evermore cars. The architects are designing more skyscrapers, despite the decrepit condition of the electric grid and the frightful situation with our depleting natural gas supply. We're so confident, so sure of ourselves.
     "When you combine the seven deadly sins with high technology, you get some really serious problems. You get turbo-sins. It's dreadful to imagine what goeth after turbo-pride."

But we may end up living what is too dreadful to imagine.

Click here to comment on this article

Sharon heads home after disappointing US summit
Wed Apr 13, 7:41 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was to head back to Israel after a disappointing summit with US President George W. Bush which exposed some of the close allies' divisions over the Mideast peace process.

On Sunday, Sharon set out on his 10th visit to the United States, confident that the top-level summit would see Bush publicly applauding the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza while glossing over a dispute about expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The invitation to visit Bush's Texas ranch for the first time was meant to emphasize the uniquely close and intimate relationship between the two men, which has been cemented by the Israeli leader's willingness to pull all troops and Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip later this summer.

But the summit fell significantly short of Israeli expectations.

While Bush reaffirmed his support for the Gaza withdrawal, praising Sharon's "strong visionary leadership", the overriding image of the summit was the US leader issuing an unusually stern warning that Israel must respect the terms of the Mideast peace roadmap and not follow through on controversial plans to expand settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.

However, Bush's comments about settlement expansion -- mentioned three times at a joint press conference -- were brushed off by the Israeli delegation, who were at pains to emphasize the successful nature of the trip which saw Sharon paying his first-ever visit to the US leader's private ranch in Texas.

Putting a positive spin on the talks, Israeli officials, including Sharon himself, brusquely dismissed talk of a crisis or even a disagreement over Israel's long-standing settlement policy.

But it was hard to avoid the impression that the trip was overshadowed by the very public presidential rebuke.

"Bush last year signalled to Israel that major settlements could stay but warned against expanding them. On Monday, Bush did the right thing by strongly reiterating the policy in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It was a message Sharon did not want to hear," pointed out an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. [...]

One area which may yet bear fruit for Israel is the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

At the summit, Sharon reportedly showed Bush satellite photos of Iranian nuclear sites and warned that Tehran was approaching a "point of no return" in learning how to make an atomic bomb, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Urging Washington to keep up the pressure on Iran, Sharon pressed for the issue to be put before the UN Security Council -- a move which could yet see sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Comment: Condi Rice had different ideas regarding the satellite photos...

Click here to comment on this article

Rice plays down Iran nuclear threat
Thu Apr 14, 1:38 AM ET

NEW YORK - The United States will decide this summer whether to pursue a tougher stance on Iran's nuclear program at the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Thursday.

Rice said Washington has faith in European-led negotiations aimed at ensuring that Iran's nuclear program remains non-military, and that what matters most is "a unity of purpose" among all the nations involved.

Her remarks come shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged President Bush to take a tougher line on Iran and said the country was approaching a point of no return in its quest for nuclear weapons.

Rice, however, told the newspaper the Israelis had provided "no new revelation" on Iran's alleged nuclear program. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

New Zealand prime minister badly bruised in mid-air drama
Wednesday April 13, 8:54 PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark suffered a badly bruised arm when a door on the small plane she was travelling in swung open in mid-air forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing.

Clark had been reading when the incident occurred and suffered a badly bruised arm after being lifted upwards from her seat as the twin-engined Piper Aztec lost altitude rapidly. Her seat belt saved her from more serious injury.

The prime minister said she wondered whether she would "live or die" when the door dislodged and opened during turbulence on a flight from Rotorua in the central North Island to Wellington.

"With my head in papers all of a sudden there seems to be a lot of noise and the plane plunging -- even with your belt on you go up and my arm crashed down on a piece of metal on a window sill," Clark told reporters.

"I was mostly concerned about the bad knock I got on my arm... then I noticed my briefcase had been flipped upside down and my papers had flown through the cabin."

Clark told National Radio she was sitting in the rear of the plane reading her papers when they struck turbulence without warning.

The sudden movement of the plane dislodged the door and as it began to open, two police officers travelling with the prime minister grabbed hold of it.

They could not shut the door, so they held on to it through the emergency landing.

"When the plane plunges like that, it's obviously quite shocking," Clark said.

"When you see the door can't close you know that it is a serious incident."

The pilot sent out a distress call and diverted to the nearest airport, which was at Paraparaumu just north of the capital.

Aviation authorities have been alerted and an investigation was under way.

"At this stage we're not quite sure what happened," Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokeswoman Heidi Brook said.

Clark would not comment on whether the door on the six-seater plane had been closed properly before take-off, saying that the investigation would look at that question.

Click here to comment on this article

Japan's drilling plan a provocation: FM 2005-04-14 01:57:33

BEIJING, April 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Japan has come up with a serious provocation to China's rights by granting Japanese firms the right to drill for gas and oil in East China Sea, said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang on Wednesday.

In response to a question from local press, Qin said China has already lodged protest on this issue to the Japanese side and will retain the right to make further reaction.

The Japanese government Wednesday initiated procedures to grant Japanese firms the right to conduct test drilling for potential gas and oil fields to the east of the so called "demarcation line" in the East China Sea.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has asked relevant authorities to review applications from companies which want to explore the fields, the Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday.

Qin said the move by the Japanese side is a serious provocation to the rights of China and the norm of international relations.

Qin said there are disputes between China and Japan on the demarcation of the continental shelf of East China Sea. He said China has always insisted that the two sides should resolve the issue through diplomatic negotiation.

However, the Japanese side has turned a deaf ear to the righteous proposition of China and attempted to impose its unilaterally-conceived "demarcation line" on the Chinese side.

"China has never ever recognized and will never recognize this (the "demarcation line")," Qin said.

Comment: Tensions have been rising between China and Japan in recent weeks. Is Japan playing bad cop to China so that the US can play good cop?

Click here to comment on this article

China's fury doesn't wash, but why the froth?
By Marc Erikson

SHENZHEN - Here in Shenzhen from Hong Kong last Sunday with a couple of friends for some weekend shopping, I had the misfortune of bumping into a several-thousand strong anti-Japanese demonstration at a shopping center - a day trip wasted. Demonstrations had also been held the previous Sunday in this special-economic-zone city across the mainland border with Hong Kong.

At that time, some Japanese (and for good measure, other) department store display windows were smashed, some items looted. This has been going on for the better part of the past two weeks, not just in Shenzhen, but in Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu and other places. Guangzhou seems to have joined in this past Sunday. Shanghai to date has been largely unaffected.

The never-ending controversy over Japanese textbooks once again allegedly touched off the anti-Japanese protests; other issues apparently include Japan's effort to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the true ownership of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands, and claims to oil-and-gas rich undersea territory in the East China Sea.

What struck me was the well-organized nature of the demonstration. A guy in a dark brown suit (no tie, though) diligently burned a Japanese flag; once aflame, it was quickly doused by another protester prudently equipped with a fire extinguisher. Then there was the designated hitter/screamer - a fellow wielding a broom stick (which, unbeknownst to me, may have some marshal arts significance) who - carried aloft by two stout men - delivered vicious blows with both ends of the stick to the head and body of a puppet of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi carried by a guy wearing a protective motor cycle helmet. And then there were the "riot police", accompanying the protest march more like parade marshals at New York's St Patrick's Day parade up Fifth Avenue.

We thought we'd ask some of the protesters - more like revelers, actually - what this was all about. "Whitewash," said one of them (in English) and repeated the word several times over, presumably referring to the alleged whitewash of Japanese war crimes against China in present-day textbooks. "They [the Japanese] are too arrogant; we can't take it any longer," said another. How did they know about the "whitewash"? They were told about it in their work unit. Where did the Japanese flags come from that were ceremoniously burnt? A guy handed them out when they boarded the bus that took them to the demonstration.

I can't vouch for it that the Beijing demonstrations were as contrived and carefully staged. But people picking up rocks on cue as TV cameras focused on them and making quite a show of hurling them at the windows of the Japanese Embassy while "riot police" looked the other way strongly suggest it - and suggest the same organizers of the spontaneous anti-Japanese outpouring.

Sunday noon, Asia Times Online's Chinese-language sister publication (along with most or all Chinese media outlets) received an instruction from the Communist Party's central publicity department (via provincial propaganda units) to black out completely any and all reports of the protest rallies. Publications staff were, however, permitted to join the demonstrations if they saw fit.

The obvious question is, why was all this cooked up, for what purpose, and why now? There are no convincing answers, and it's in the nature of such contrivances that the originators won't talk. One thing, though, is quite certain: the Chinese claim (at vice foreign minister's level) that Japan is to blame for the unrest is absurd. Sure, Koizumi has insisted on visiting Yasukuni Shrine (war memorial were the remains of several convicted and executed Japanese war criminals are interred) every year. Sure, the textbooks are an issue. And, yes, the Japanese are not the most repentant of souls when it comes to their actions in World War II.

But after seeing what I saw in Shenzhen, I know that the Chinese government and/or Communist Party got this thing going and kept it going. Students might do this sort of thing on their own. They certainly did at Tiananmen in 1989. From the looks of it (the TV pictures), students were involved in the Beijing demonstrations. But in Shenzhen there are no students. It's a special economic zone chock full of contract workers from all over China, working in factories or - per chance - in brothels. And don't tell me this is an arrogant "elitist" view and that factory workers are as capable of being indignant about the historical wrongs done to the nation as university students!

The questions remain: why and why now?

To be systematic about it, there seem to be three possibilities: 1) the government wants to divert attention from pressing domestic problems; 2) Communist Party factional issues are fought out in a strange arena; 3) Beijing wants leverage to stoke up nationalist fervor for international gain. Neither 1) nor 2) can be entirely ruled out.

While the anti-Japan protests were going on in Beijing and other cities, villagers in Zhejiang province did battle with police (and won!), protesting operation of a chemical plant on land appropriated from them by local authorities. Similar such protests over land, taxes and so on have been erupting regularly over the past several years. Still, they do not appear to pose a serious or immediate threat to governmental authority. It has also been noted that Shanghai did not participate in the protests. But it would seem quite a stretch to construe an ongoing factional quarrel between former party chief and state president Jiang Zemin and his successor Hu Jintao out of that.

That leaves international leverage - and that certainly appeared to be the message when Premier Wen Jiabao told Tokyo on Tuesday that it must squarely face up to history. "The strong reactions from the Asian [sic] people should evoke deep reflections by the Japanese government," Wen said, adding, "Only by doing so [facing up to history] can it exert greater responsibility in the international community."

Japan is lobbying to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Wen is telling Japan, shape up if you want "Asia's" support. Note, he didn't say China's. Beijing is challenging Japan for economic leadership in Asia. And Beijing wants to be the acknowledged leading and unchallenged regional power. That appears to be the message. As for the vehicle for conveying it, the issue of distortion of history doesn't seem the best choice. The distortions that litter Chinese history from 1949 till now are too many to count.

Click here to comment on this article

Scientist suggests big loop theory of the universe
Staff and agencies
Thursday April 14, 2005

Is the universe stuck in a Groundhog Day? Is the universe stuck in a Groundhog Day?

Difficult to tell if the Groundhog Day lasts for billions of years, but a leading Princeton physicist will today put forward the theory of a cyclical universe stuck in a never-ending loop.

Speaking at the Institute of Physics conference Physics 2005 at Warwick University, Professor Paul Steinhardt will present new work which could reinvigorate research into future universes.

Drawing on recent findings that the universe's expansion is speeding up, and that the majority of energy in the universe must therefore be gravitationally repulsive "dark energy", Prof Steinhardt, who is the Albert Einstein professor in science at Princeton University, will explain how this could mean that the universe is destined to repeat its own history.

Physicists propose several options for the future of the universe, but most dramatic is the possibility that the current acceleration is the prelude to a period of contraction. The "big crunch" which followed would create new matter and radiation, triggering another big bang, and a rejuvenated universe would emerge from the fireball like a phoenix from the flames.

Prof Steinhardt argues that what happens in the future could also have happened in our past. The big bang may not have been the beginning of space and time, but a bridge to a pre-existing era of contraction. Instead, the evolution of the universe could be cyclic, with regularly repeating periods of expansion and contraction.

If this theory is correct, it could help to explain one of the puzzles of cosmology - how the galaxies, stars and planets came into being. The big bang should leave a boring, featureless universe, but not if it was preceded by a big crunch. The random quantum fluctuations in the collapsing universe might be the very ripples which seed the galaxies in the subsequent expansion.

The cyclic picture can be tested using experiments which are already underway. Physicists are looking for propagating ripples in space known as gravitational waves. Prof Steinhardt says that the spectrum of the waves detected should reveal whether or not the universe existed before the big bang.

Click here to comment on this article

What a way to go

Super-volcano, robotic rebellion or terrorism? Kate Ravilious asks 10 scientists to name the biggest danger to Earth and assesses the chances of it happening
Thursday April 14, 2005
The Guardian
How will it all end? Some say we are likely to go with a bang, others predict a slow lingering end, while the optimists suggest we will overcome our difficulties by evolving into a different species.

According to Sir Martin Rees, author of Our Final Century, astronomer royal and professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, humans only have a 50-50 chance of making it through the 21st century without serious setback. "Some natural threats, such as earthquakes and meteorite impacts, remain the same throughout time, while others are aggravated by our modern-interconnected world. But now we also need to consider threats that are human induced."

So what are the greatest threats to humans and can we do anything about them? Below, 10 scientists talk about their greatest fears and explain how society could be affected. Afterwards we estimate each threat in two ways: first, the chance of it occurring in our lifetime (the next 70 years); and, second, the danger that it would pose to the human race if it did happen (10 = making humans extinct, to one = barely having an impact on our lives).

1: Climate Change

Nick Brooks is a senior research associate at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia:

"By the end of this century it is likely that greenhouse gases will have doubled and the average global tempera­ture will have risen by at least 2C. This is hotter than anything the Earth has experienced in the last one and a half million years. In the worst case scenario it could completely alter the climate in many regions of the world. This could lead to global food insecurity and the widespread collapse of existing social systems, causing mass migration and conflict over resources as some parts of the world become much less habitable. I don't think that climate change will sound the death knell for humans, but it certainly has the potential to devastate."

Chance of temperatures rising more than 2C (the level considered to be dangerous by the European Union) in the next 70 years: High

Danger score: 6

2: Telomere erosion

Reinhard Stindl, a medical doctor at the University of Vienna, says every species contains an "evolutionary clock", ticking through the generations and counting down towards an inevitable extinction date:

"On the end of every animal's chromosomes are protective caps called telomeres. Without them our chromosomes would become unstable. Each time a cell divides it never quite copies its telomere completely and throughout our lifetime the telomeres become shorter and shorter as the cells multiply. Eventually, when they become critically short, we start to see age-related diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer's, heart attacks and strokes.

"However, it is not just through our lifetime that telomeres get shorter. My theory is that there is a tiny loss of telomere length from one generation to the next, mirroring the process of ageing in individuals. Over thousands of generations the telomere gets eroded down to its critical level. Once at the critical level we would expect to see outbreaks of age-related diseases occurring earlier in life and finally a population crash. Telomere erosion could explain the disappearance of a seemingly successful species, such as Neanderthal man, with no need for external factors such as climate change."

Chances of a human population crash due to telomere erosion during the next 70 years: Low

Danger score: 8

3: Viral Pandemic

Professor Maria Zambon is a virologist and head of the Health Protection Agency's Influenza Laboratory:

"Within the last century we have had four major flu epidemics, along with HIV and Sars. Major pandemics sweep the world every century, and it is inevitable that at least one will occur in the future. At the moment the most serious concern is H5 avian influenza in chickens in south-east Asia. If this virus learns to transmit from human to human then it could sweep rapidly around the world. The 1918 influenza outbreak caused 20m deaths in just one year: more than all the people killed in the first world war. A similar outbreak now could have a perhaps more devastating impact.

"It is not in the interests of a virus to kill all of its hosts, so a virus is unlikely to wipe out the human race, but it could cause a serious setback for a number of years. We can never be completely prepared for what nature will do: nature is the ultimate bioterrorist."

Chance of a viral pandemic in the next 70 years: Very high

Danger score: 3

4: Terrorism

Professor Paul Wilkinson is chairman of the advisory board for the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews:

"Today's society is more vulnerable to terrorism because it is easier for a malevolent group to get hold of the necessary materials, technology and expertise to make weapons of mass destruction. The most likely cause of large scale, mass-casualty terrorism right now is from a chemical or biological weapon. The large-scale release of something like anthrax, the smallpox virus, or the plague, would have a huge effect, and modern communications would quickly make it become a trans-national problem.

"In an open society, where we value freedoms of movement, we can't guar­antee stopping an attack, and there is a very high probability that a major attack will occur somewhere in the world, within our lifetimes."

Chances of a major terrorist attack in the next 70 years: Very high

Danger score: 2

5: Nuclear war

Air Marshal Lord Garden is Liberal Democrat defence spokesman and author of Can Deterrence Last?:

"In theory, a nuclear war could destroy the human civilisation but in practice I think the time of that danger has probably passed. There are three potential nuclear flashpoints today: the Middle East, India-Pakistan and North Korea. Of these, North Korea is the most worrying, with a hair-trigger, conventional army that might start a war by accident. But I like to believe the barriers against using a nuclear weapon remain high because of the way we have developed an international system to restrain nuclear use.

"The probability of nuclear war on a global scale is low, even if there remains the possibility of nuclear use by a rogue state or fanatical extremists."

Chance of a global nuclear war in the next 70 years: Low

Danger score: 8

6: Meteorite impact

Donald Yeomans is manager of Nasa's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California:

"Over very long timescales, the risk of you dying as a result of a near-Earth object impact is roughly equivalent to the risk of dying in an aeroplane accident. To cause a serious setback to our civilisation, the impactor would have to be around 1.5km wide or larger. We expect an event of this type every million years on average. The dangers associated with such a large impactor include an enormous amount of dust in the atmosphere, which would substantially shut down sunlight for weeks, thus affecting plant life and crops that sustain life. There would be global firestorms as a result of re-entering hot ejecta and severe acid rain. All of these effects are relatively short-term, so the most adaptable species (cockroaches and humans, for example) would be likely to survive."

Chance of the Earth being hit by a large asteroid in the next 70 years: Medium

Danger score: 5

7: Robots taking over

Hans Moravec is a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh:

"Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half-century. By 2050 I predict that there will be robots with humanlike mental power, with the ability to abstract and generalise.

"These intelligent machines will grow from us, learn our skills, share our goals and values, and can be viewed as children of our minds. Not only will these robots look after us in the home, but they will also carry out complex tasks that currently require human input, such as diagnosing illness and recommending a therapy or cure. They will be our heirs and will offer us the best chance we'll ever get for immortality by uploading ourselves into advanced robots."

Chance of super-intelligent robots in the next 70 years: High

Danger score: 8

8: Cosmic ray blast from exploding star

Nir Shaviv is a senior lecturer in physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel:

"Once every few decades a massive star from our galaxy, the Milky Way, runs out of fuel and explodes, in what is known as a supernova. Cosmic rays (high-energy particles like gamma rays) spew out in all directions and if the Earth happens to be in the way, they can trigger an ice age. If the Earth already has a cold climate then an extra burst of cosmic rays could make things really icy and perhaps cause a number of species to become extinct. The Earth is at greatest risk when it passes through a spiral arm of the Milky Way, where most of the supernova occur. This happens approximately every 150m years. Paleoclimate indicators show that there has been a corresponding cold period on Earth, with more ice at the poles and many ice ages during these times.

"We are nearly out of the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way now and Earth should have a warmer climate in a few million years. But, in around 60m years we will enter the Perseus arm and ice-house conditions are likely to dominate again."

Chance of encountering a supernova in the next 70 years: Low

Danger score: 4

9: Super-volcanos

Professor Bill McGuire is director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London and a member of Tony Blair's Natural Hazards working group:

"Approximately every 50,000 years the Earth experiences a super-volcano. More than 1,000 sq km of land can be obliterated by pyroclastic ash flows, the surrounding continent is coated in ash and sulphur gases are injected into the atmosphere, making a thin veil of sulphuric acid all around the globe and reflecting back sunlight for years to come. Daytime becomes no brighter than a moonlit night.

"The global damage from a super-volcano depends on where it is and how long the gas stays in the atmosphere. Taupo in New Zealand was the most recent super-volcano, around 26,500 years ago. However, the most damaging super-volcano in human history was Toba, on Sumatra, Indonesia, 74,000 years ago. Because it was fairly close to the equator it injected gas quickly into both hemispheres. Ice core data shows that temperatures were dramatically reduced for five to six years afterwards, with freezing conditions right down to the tropics.

"A super-volcano is 12 times more likely than a large meteorite impact. There is a 0.15% probability that one will happen in your lifetime. Places to watch now are those that have erupted in the past, such as Yellowstone in the US and Toba. But, even more worryingly, a super-volcano could also burst out from somewhere that has never erupted before, such as under the Amazon rainforest."

Chance of a super-volcano in the next 70 years: Very high

Danger score: 7

10: Earth swallowed by a black hole

Richard Wilson is Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics at Harvard University in the US:

"Around seven years ago, when the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider was being built at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, there was a worry that a state of dense matter could be formed that had never been created before. At the time this was the largest particle accelerator to have been built, making gold ions crash head on with immense force. The risk was that this might form a stage that was sufficiently dense to be like a black hole, gathering matter from the outside. Would the Brookhaven labs (and perhaps the entire Earth) end up being swallowed by a black hole created by the new accelerator?

"Using the information we already know from black holes in outer space, we did some calculations to find out if the Brookhaven particle accelerator was capable of forming such a black hole. We are now pretty certain this state of matter won't form at Brookhaven and that the Earth won't be swallowed when these particles collide."

Chance of Earth being gobbled up by a black hole in the next 70 years: Exceedingly low

Danger score: 10

Click here to comment on this article

'Huge ball of fire' over Spain
Madrid, Spain
13 April 2005

A meteorite that residents described as a "huge ball of fire" was spotted on Wednesday over the eastern Spanish regions of Catalonia and Valencia, according to astronomers in the region.

"We received scores of calls from witnesses, who at first thought it was an asteroid flashing past. But judging from its size, it was a meteorite," said a spokesperson for a Catalonia-based astronomers' association.

Motorists spotted the glowing sphere from the motorway linking Spain with southern France and reported seeing it break up into fragments.

The meteorite glowed a greenish hue as it sped through the atmosphere on a northeast-southeast trajectory.

"That leads us to think it fell into the sea," the spokesperson said.

The observatory at Valencia University said it estimates the celestial body was travelling at around 10 000kph when it entered the atmosphere.

Click here to comment on this article

Revised Asteroid Scale Aids Understanding Of Impact Risk
Boston MA (SPX) Apr 13, 2005
The revised Torino scale. Click here for larger chart.

Astronomers led by an MIT professor have revised the scale used to assess the threat of asteroids and comets colliding with Earth to better communicate those risks with the public.

The overall goal is to provide easy-to-understand information to assuage concerns about a potential doomsday collision with our planet.

The Torino scale, a risk-assessment system similar to the Richter scale used for earthquakes, was adopted by a working group of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1999 at a meeting in Torino, Italy.

On the scale, zero means virtually no chance of collision, while 10 means certain global catastrophe.

"The idea was to create a simple system conveying clear, consistent information about near-Earth objects [NEOs]," or asteroids and comets that appear to be heading toward the planet, said Richard Binzel, a professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the creator of the scale.

Some critics, however, said that the original Torino scale was actually scaring people, "the opposite of what was intended," said Binzel. Hence the revisions.

"For a newly discovered NEO, the revised scale still ranks the impact hazard from 0 to 10, and the calculations that determine the hazard level are still exactly the same," Binzel said.

The difference is that the wording for each category now better describes the attention or response merited for each.

For example, in the original scale NEOs of level 2-4 were described as "meriting concern." The revised scale describes objects with those rankings as "meriting attention by astronomers" -not necessarily the public.

Equally important in the revisions, says Binzel, "is the emphasis on how continued tracking of an object is almost always likely to reduce the hazard level to 0, once sufficient data are obtained."

The general process of classifying NEO hazards is roughly analogous to hurricane forecasting. Predictions of a storm's path are updated as more and more tracking data are collected.

According to Dr. Donald K. Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office, "The revisions in the Torino Scale should go a long way toward assuring the public that while we cannot always immediately rule out Earth impacts for recently discovered near-Earth objects, additional observations will almost certainly allow us to do so."

The highest Torino level ever given an asteroid was a 4 last December, with a 2 percent chance of hitting Earth in 2029.

And after extended tracking of the asteroid's orbit, it was reclassified to level 0, effectively no chance of collision, "the outcome correctly emphasized by level 4 as being most likely," Binzel said.

"It is just a matter of the scale becoming more well known and understood. Just as there is little or no reason for public concern over a magnitude 3 earthquake, there is little cause for public attention for NEO close encounters having low values on the Torino scale."

He notes that an object must reach level 8 on the scale before there is a certainty of an impact capable of causing even localized destruction.

The Torino scale was developed because astronomers are spotting more and more NEOs through projects like the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research project at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.

"There's no increase in the number of asteroids out there or how frequently they encounter our planet. What's changed is our awareness of them," Binzel notes.

As a result, astronomers debated whether they should keep potential NEO collisions secret or "be completely open with what we know when we know it," Binzel said. The IAU working group, of which Binzel is secretary, resoundingly decided on the latter.

The revised wording of the scale was published last fall in a chapter of "Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids" (Cambridge University Press). The revisions were undertaken through consultation with astronomers worldwide for nearly a year before being published.

Binzel concludes that "the chance of something hitting the Earth and having a major impact is very unlikely. But although unlikely, it is still not impossible. The only way to be certain of no asteroid impacts in the forecast is to keep looking."

Click here to comment on this article

Wind felt like earthquake
Laura Walz, Peak Editor 04/13/2005

Intense wind leaves Wildwood residents breathless at its speed and strength

A freak wind blew through Wildwood last week, leaving some residents wondering if it was a mini-tornado.

People experienced the strange phenomenon just after 10 pm on Wednesday, April 6. Because it was dark out, no one saw a funnel cloud, but the impact led to speculation it was some kind of tornado.

John Harris, who lives on Nass Street, was inside his home when the gust hit. "It popped my screen door open, right from the lock," he said. "It pushed my window in. I have the old wooden-style windows and I saw it go in and go out."

Harris said he thought the wind must have been close to 80 miles an hour at that point. "But it only lasted less than five minutes. It was just there and it came, and poof, it was gone."

John Harris, his son who lives on Lund Highway close to the Top of the Hill store, said his whole house moved. "It was an incredible feeling," he said. "It wasn't like an earthquake shake, it was definitely like my house moved. It was interesting. Then that was it. It was over."

Cassia DePape, who also lives on Nass Street, felt the wind as well. "The pane on the window was shaking," she said. "It got really intense, and all of a sudden it was over."

A large branch from a weeping willow tree snapped off during the windstorm, landing a few metres away from her house.

DePape didn't see the branch fall, but her next-door neighbour, Jennifer Laycraft, did. "I was shocked," she said. "It was huge. I've never seen anything like that."

Laycraft said she thought there had been an earthquake. "My walls started shifting and my roof felt like it was going to fly off."

There were rain showers that night in the area, but the Powell River weather station recorded winds at six kilometres an hour from southwest at the time of the strong winds in Wildwood.

Click here to comment on this article

Active volcanoes linked to disaster earthquake
14/04/2005 - 07:32:42

Indonesian scientists today were closely monitoring three volcanoes that have rumbled into life – activity they link to last December’s monster earthquake off the coast of Sumatra Island and the countless other powerful tremors that followed.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from the slopes of Mount Talang in west Sumatra, which erupted on Tuesday, showering dust over nearby villages and spreading panic among villagers.

Today, many of the villagers returned home to tend their crops and animals, but were planning to return to makeshift camps and public buildings like schools and mosques for the night.

Authorities have declared the other two – Anak Krakatoa off Sumatra’s southern tip and Tangkuban Perahu in west Java province – off limits to hikers, citing a build up of gas inside the peaks and increase in volcanic eruptions.

Scientists have been dispatched to all three mountains, but there were no signs of imminent eruption, said Syamsul Rizal, a government volcanologist.

Rizal, who was speaking from a monitoring station on Tangkuban Perahu, said he suspected that “the activities at these volcanoes were triggered by the December 26 tremor under the Indian Ocean seabed of Sumatra.”

The 9.1 magnitude earthquake in December triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami. Three months later, an 8.7 magnitude quake erupted from the same fault line, killing more than 600 people on islands off Sumatra’s west coast.

The mountains are among at least 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation. The country is especially prone to seismological activity because it is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Anak Krakatoa is a small volcanic island that appeared in the 1930s on the site of the former volcano of Krakatoa, which produced the world’s most powerful explosion when it erupted in 1883 and killed an estimated 36,000 people.

Anak Krakatoa – “Krakatoa’s Child” – erupted repeatedly in 1999, spewing volcanic gases and rocks into the air.

Click here to comment on this article

Hundreds left homeless after violent storm in central Cambodia
Thursday April 14, 1:08 PM

Hundreds of Cambodians were left homeless after a violent storm badly damaged 72 houses in central Kampong Thom province earlier this week, police said.

Huot Sarim, Stong district police chief, said the storm formed over Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake Sunday and ripped into the mostly wooden and thatch houses in two district communes.

"Some people ran away and some sheltered under their houses, but luckily most people were still busy working outside when it hit, and most of the cows and buffaloes were still in the rice fields," he told AFP.

"Afterwards we found 72 houses were damaged. A few people were slightly injured and some cows were wounded too."

He said last year a similar storm destroyed 90 houses in the area. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

An exhibition of fantasy -- 296,000 reasons why the world loves the Kims
Thursday April 14, 11:47 AM

If the stuffed crocodile carrying a tray of wooden cups is anything to go by, North Korea's father and son dictators have no limits on the bizarre when accepting tokens of "boundless reverence".

Among the other 296,000 gifts to Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il at their "International Friendship Exhibition" are the head of a bear personally shot by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and a stuffed white crane from US Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

The exhibition, in two enormous marble and granite buildings about 90 minutes' drive from the capital of Pyongyang, is hailed as proof the world does not share US President George W. Bush's loathsome opinion of the Kims. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Surveys: Young Adults Search Spiritually
By JUSTIN POPE, AP Education Writer
Wed Apr 13, 5:24 PM ET

For some young adults, spirituality goes hand in hand with religious practice. For others, it is a substitute. Regardless, young Americans are actively engaged in spiritual questions, two new surveys indicate, even if they may not be exploring them in traditional ways.

One of the surveys, of more than 100,000 freshmen who started college last fall, found four in five reporting an interest in spirituality, with three in four searching for meaning or purpose in life, and the same proportion discussing the meaning of life with friends.

The students starting college expected their institutions to help them explore such questions. And while an even higher proportion, more than 90 percent, said they expect their college to prepare them for employment, the authors noted that the results challenge the view of young Americans as crassly materialistic.

"They are looking inwardly and they are searching for ways to cultivate their inner selves," said Helen Astin, professor emeritus of higher education and a senior scholar UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, which produced the survey of college freshman released Wednesday in Washington.

A separate survey of 1,325 18-25 year-olds released earlier this week by Reboot, a Jewish networking group, and several collaborating organizations, emphasizes the degree to which young people are confronting religious issues informally, through conversations and even Christian rock music rather than formal religious practice.

While 44 percent of respondents called themselves "religious," 35 percent said they are "spiritual but not religious" and 18 percent said neither.

At Roanoke College, in Salem, Va., where he has been chaplain for more than 20 years, Paul Henrickson said he is quite familiar with the "spiritual but not religious" phenomenon.

"You have a lot of kids that understand in their hearts that there is a mystery about life that is larger than they are and larger than they understand, and they would call that 'spiritual.' And they are very interested in that," Henrickson said.

But, he added, "they pursue that in private ways" and "in kind of a shotgun approach. They'll look at all kinds of things from Eastern religions to yoga to New Age stuff to the standard Christianity. But they are unlikely to have that solid commitment to a religious institution (like) church membership."

Still, many students view spirituality as a complement to their religious beliefs. In the UCLA survey, for instance, Mormons, Baptists and nontraditional Christians all exhibited high degrees of both spirituality and religious engagement as measured by such things as praying, attending services and reading sacred texts.

Students exhibiting high religious engagement were more likely to have conservative social views, though some issues like the death penalty and affirmative action do not conform to the pattern. [...]

Parents Getting Aggressive, Teachers Say
By LIZ AUSTIN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 12, 6:38 PM ET

DALLAS - The shooting last week of a Texas high school football coach - allegedly by a player's father - was just the latest and most extreme example of the threats and assaults that teachers around the country say they are increasingly being subjected to by parents.

"I know teachers really feel they're in a pressure cooker," said Aimee Bolender, president of Alliance/AFT, a Dallas teachers union. "The respect for authority has definitely changed. Teachers are no longer respected in general."

In Philadelphia in September, a mother slapped a teacher three times in the face after he told her she needed to get a late slip for her daughter, state officials say. In Dallas, a teacher got into a hair-pulling fight with a mother April 1 after scolding the woman's daughter for loitering outside a locker. The mother is herself a teacher at a Dallas high school.

Educators attribute the assaults and arguments, in part, to a general decline in civility and the intense competition these days to get into the right colleges.

Lisa Jacobson, chief executive of the tutoring and test preparation business Inspirica, said teachers have told her they are overwhelmed by pushy parents.

"They feel like the parents come in as CEOs and order them around," Jacobson said. "I've seen many cases of parents going into schools and coercing teachers to change grades."

Also, parents are more stressed-out than they used to be - working one or more jobs, or running single-parent households - and may be more likely to lash out at their children's teachers, said Doug Fiore, a Virginia elementary school principal who co-wrote a book for teachers called "Dealing With Difficult Parents." [...]

While no national education organization keeps statistics on assaults and threats against teachers by parents, many educators say they have seen an unmistakable rise in tensions.

Lee Alvoid, a retired principal in suburban Dallas, said that toward the end of her 32-year career, parent-teacher conferences had become so tense that she sometimes asked security guards to stand outside her office.

The Issaquah school district outside Seattle adopted a "civility policy" in 2001 to teach everyone - parents, students, teachers and administrators - how to communicate courteously because conversations were becoming more confrontational.

"You listen to the talk show hosts on the radio, you watch the confrontational programs on TV. We're all more sharp and pointed and critical and demanding of each other," district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.

The Philadelphia school system is working to teach parents how to represent their children's interests more effectively and is giving teachers training in conflict resolution, said Claudia Averette, the district's chief of staff.

In light of the shooting in East Texas, the Texas High School Coaches Association may adopt a conflict resolution program, said D. W. Rutledge, executive vice president.

"If it's in society, it's going to be in our schools," Rutledge said. "We see a lot more things that are shocking as far as how people are approaching things."

Click here to comment on this article

Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Quantum Future

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.

Send your comments and article suggestions to us Email addess

Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at
Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.